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ARTS & BUSINESS: Star Shines for Tree House Books

Star Bosacan

Editor's note:  This is presented as part of a content partnership with the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia.

Name: Star Bocasan
Company/Title: Equinox Management & Construction, LLC / Marketing & Communications Manager
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Temple University
Organization: Tree House Books Education

Tell us about your experience as a board member with Tree House Books.
Tree House Books is on a mission of growing and sustaining a community of readers, writers, and thinkers in North Central Philadelphia. I first heard about Tree House through a friend and started volunteering for their Magazine Workshop when I was a student at Temple University.  Volunteering with Tree House gave me a creative outlet and made me feel more connected to the community. I got to work with neighborhood children to publish the first “the Ave.” -- a literary magazine written by participants in the workshops. I joined the board shortly after graduating from Temple and am currently serving as board secretary. As board secretary, I maintain Tree House’s board notes and records. I also serve on task forces that our board creates in order to accomplish specific projects, such as our Annual Event Task Force.

Why do you think this work is important to the organization?
Tree House’s board members are thoughtful, they are are well connected, they are passionate about our city, and they are experts in their professional fields. This type of leadership is very important to a small non-profit in North Central Philadelphia because it gives them a built-in support system and access to resources that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

How do you know your volunteer leadership is making a difference?
I know that my leadership, as just one part of the Tree House team, has made a difference because together, we have helped Tree House Books to grow steadily year by year. My first year on the board, we only had one full-time employee.  Now, we have three full-time employees and three times as many volunteers and donors.

How did the Business On Board training and support from the Arts & Business Council help you grow as a board member?
The Business On Board training and support from the Arts & Business Council taught me a lot about the non-profit sector in Philadelphia, the legal and financial obligations a board has to a non-profit,  board governance, and best practices for non-profit boards. What was truly invaluable from the training were the discussion panels and mentorship that the Arts & Business Council provided.  I am so thankful for Business On Board because it helped me transition from being just a board member to board secretary.

How have your professional skills grown as a result of working with Tree House Books?
My professional skills have grown tremendously since working with Tree House Books.  Working with a small non-profit is like working with a small business. In my professional career, I mostly work in marketing and communications.  But at Tree House, similar to small business owners, I get to learn a lot about every aspect of the organization from grant writing and organizational governance, to cash flow and financial statements.  I’ve also met great people and built a bigger network from working with Tree House. Overall, it’s made me more diverse and holistic professional.  

Who specifically do you admire at Tree House Books and why?
The entire Tree House family is an amazing group but someone that I really admire is Tree House’s Volunteer Coordinator, Lauren Macaluso. Lauren started volunteering at Tree House when she was a student at Temple. Now as Volunteer Coordinator, she trains both the Temple student volunteers and all of Tree House’s volunteers.  She is extremely dedicated, passionate, and has a strong connection to the community. Lauren is a great example of how young people can make a difference in their communities and make a career out of it.

How have you witnessed your organization positively impacting the community or helping it grow?
When kids are harvesting freshly grown tomatoes to take home, when we have to rent multiple limos for Reading Awards trip for students that read over 10 books, when kids are autographing copies of their published work, when kids are crying for joy because they received a “Most Improved” Tutoring Time Award, when parents are volunteering to host fundraisers for Tree House, when we have to start a waiting list for Summer Camp because we’ve reached capacity - that’s when I’ve witnessed our organization positively impacting the community and helping it grow.

What's one program or event you’ve participated in at Tree House Books that inspires you?
One event that inspires me is Tree House’s Annual Event.  Each year, usually in November, Tree House hosts an annual showcase and fundraiser. This year, it will be held at WHYY on November 7th. During the Annual Event, Tree House kids showcase projects and works they’ve created so it’s a great time for people to learn more about Tree House and what we do. It’s also amazing to see how local businesses show their support through sponsorships and donations. The event brings everyone together to celebrate Tree House and a life with books that we try to create for our community.

What advice would you offer to others considering nonprofit board service?
I would tell others interested in nonprofit board service to go for it. There are many organizations that need you. You will learn a lot about yourself and your community.

THE ARTS & BUSINESS COUNCIL OF GREATER PHILADELPHIA helps drive the cultural vitality and economic development of the Greater Philadelphia region by strengthening the partnership between business and the arts and cultural community. 
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