By Stefanie Takacs

We at Touchstones are well-versed in and quite comfortable with situations of high uncertainty—what is more unpredictable than a Touchstones workshop or discussion or more uncertain than entering a prison? However, there is little experience that adequately prepares one for a crisis such as the COVID- 19 emergency. Fortunately, our organization has an incredibly talented and dedicated Board of Directors and nimble staff. I want to share some of what we are doing to ensure as much long-term organizational stability as possible while continuing to meet our mission.

Weeks prior to the Governor of Maryland declaring a state of emergency or imposing a stay-at-home mandate, we felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic from the West Coast. Anticipating a national crisis, we took steps to ensure staff could safely and effectively work remotely, which we are now doing. When earned income from Touchstones books and educational services came to a grinding halt in early March, we immediately worked with teachers, schools, districts and other clients to assure them we will be here when they return to normal operating. And when face-to- face executive and community programming was no longer an option, we transitioned to online discussion meetings where possible.

Because Touchstones has been a hybridized social venture non-profit for decades, we’ve learned through hard-earned experience that times of great adversity require tremendous creativity, focus, and flexibility. To meet the challenges and needs teachers and people everywhere are facing now, we’re bringing together educators in online discussions to share their needs and—in true Touchstones fashion—teach and learn together by asking questions and sharing ideas and knowledge. We’re also running online discussions open to the community, so people can meaningfully connect at a time of profound confusion. And we’re providing continued, individualized support to clients by offering digital access to materials teachers, schools, and districts have already purchased, as well as guidance about how to bring Touchstones to life in the digital realm.

We are also asking for special support from funders and donors to cover salary and general operating and have completed applications for both State grants and Federal loans, so we remain fully able to serve people during and after this crisis. Most importantly, we remain profoundly thankful to everyone in the extended Touchstones family for your encouragement and continued engagement and wish you all good health and safety.