Looped In: with special guest, Megan Quillinan

In this episode, Lisa Munter talks with Megan Quillinan, Executive Director of the Mechanicville Area Community Services Center (MACS).

looped in podcast


Lisa Munter: Hey everyone, welcome back to Looped In With Knitt. I'm really excited for today because I am speaking with my friend, Megan Quillinan from Mechanicville Area Community Service Center. How are you, Megan? How are you Good?

Megan Quillinan: Morning, I'm good. How are you?

Lisa Munter: Good, it's always a mouthful, the Mechanicville Area Community Service Center.

Megan Quillinan: Absolutely, we try to go by M-A-S-C just because it's shorter to say. But that's a mouthful also.

Lisa Munter: Yes, it is. I'm so glad that you were able to talk with me today. I was really excited because I was thinking about back to when we first met, which was maybe five years ago. I don't know about you, but I had an instant connection to you. I know when we met you just had me laughing and I could have just talked to you all day. I was like let's just take the rest of the day and go out for coffee and keep talking. So why don't you just start by telling us what you do?

Megan Quillinan: So I am the executive director at the Mechanical Area Community Service Center. We were founded by local parents more than 50 years ago, so we've been in the community and of the community for quite a long time, but these last 20 years or so we really are more of a family neighborhood resource center, meaning we are in an area that doesn't have a lot of access to public transportation. So we really work with our community partners and organizations to bring whatever resources we can directly to our community so people can better access and get supports they need to be more successful in their lives in whatever way that might mean, whether that's needing to combat food insecurity with a food pantry, or you need child care or supports for your parents, or domestic violence services or child care summer camp We've got a little bit of everything in between.

Lisa Munter: So you really do it all we do.

Megan Quillinan: It's never boring. But everything's community driven, everything's driven by what we see going on in the world around us.

Lisa Munter: So no, I love that and obviously, being a community center, you are all encompassing and having to check a lot of box in regards to support. So, obviously, because you are community centric, how do you make connections within your community?

Megan Quillinan: Thank you, I think and this is more personally, you know, then, but I've been here long enough to sort of drive the way in our approach is that everyone should be at the table. We are the center of the hub, we are the connector for the community and for relationships, and I believe everything goes back to relationships and understanding what's going on and not knowing what's going on with people or businesses or organizations. You know, people are coming from a lot of different viewpoints and we really work to connect all of them to. We love making connections, not just for our customers coming in, but for you know, oh, have you talked to someone so that they, you know, are looking for a board member or something that might make sense, a funding source that might not work for us but might work for one of our partner agencies? Or, you know, at every level you have to have relationships and connections to I don't know what to just exist. It doesn't, you can't not you know yeah. The last few years hasn't taught us that. You know everyone, COVID was horrible, but some of the good things that did come out of it was stronger connections, working stronger together. I think, taking it back to basic a lot of it and realizing what we really need to focus on, Absolutely.

Lisa Munter: You know so, obviously, because you are the hub of your community within Mechanicville. What are some of the challenges that you face when it comes to finding new, new relationships or new donors?

Megan Quillinan: So I think even going back to you, introducing me, sort of nailed it for us we are Mechanicville in our name. We obviously are here in Mechanicville, we are you know where. We always say Mechanicville is the place that you're not ever really coming through but is really close to and on your way to a lot. So I think when you hear an agency that leads with its name Mechanicville, people jump to the conclusion that we're a city owned or we're city run or we're, you know, I mean not of our own selves, and we are, we're private, not-for-profit, meaning all the fundraising is up to us, that we, you know all the programming, all the planning and the area in our name. The second of the long name is area and for us, again, we really serve the Greater Mechanicville area which encompasses a lot of different school districts which you know Waterford, Schaghticoke, Half Moon, bits of Clifton Park and Stillwater and Schuylerville, primarily by location. So again, we and we're really we're small enough to be able to develop a lot of innovative and different programming and see what works, and large enough to be able to find the funding to do that most times. But we're not large enough to really have a whole marketing team. We're not large enough to have the kind of outreach that could really make connections for us. So getting the word out that we do serve more than just as immediate Mechanicville city and that the resources we have available is not always easy, especially when it comes to funders. You know we're a small, we are the small city in the state of New York and we have great partners and businesses that we work really closely with and that are great supporters. But how many times can you hit the same people up when you're looking for support or you're looking for sponsors for an event or you're looking for help?

Lisa Munter: Yes, you know absolutely. I mean you have multi facets of hurdles that you need to jump through in order to find that next level of support. First, with the misconception of the title of your organization and people are thinking, okay, it's just a very small, teeny hub of one small town of Mechanicville, right? But then understanding like, oh wait, a second, you also service in this county. Oh well, actually I live in that county, so now I'd like to get involved in some way. So, and I think that you know, in having these conversations and doing a little deeper dive like what we're doing right now, it just brings that aha moment and it's like, oh, I didn't know that I learned something from this conversation and now that kind of gives me a different lens to make a choice with right. So I just wanted to you know, in a perfect world, what do you think personally, with all of your years experience and your role that you have been in, what can help with that? I mean, you mentioned outreach, but as an organization you can only do so much. But if you in a perfect world, if it was up to you, megan, what would help with that? Like no, seriously, because I think there's a lot of donors out there that you probably would want to support. They just don't know what you need and how you need it. So you know, yeah, what are your thoughts on that?

Megan Quillinan: Money is always fabulous unrestricted money that allows us to put it where we need it, where you may need more this year with support, domestic violence programs, and next year and maybe for health and wellness for seniors. But to trust that we are going to be good shepherds of your funds, but also recognizing that time and talent are incredibly valuable too, and I think a lot of times the same way. People think of a nonprofit and think we have to be touchy-feely and don't see us as the strong social impact sector that is an economic driver in a lot of communities and that is a business that is charged with the world's sometimes biggest problems on the smallest budget that we know how to protect a buck and spend it where it needs to be spent. I think people think of other businesses as talents that don't cross over into the nonprofit world, and I'm meaning things like marketing, like outreach, like maybe it's helping accounting. Just looking at financials right now for us, Literally last week we closed on new property around us. We just purchased a house that we're going to turn into offices and a parking lot that we'd like to do some green space with, and as a bonus, we ended up with a church, which is an art center on the Hudson, which is a beautiful church. I know nothing about where to start. For us, this is another language. If someone was looking to volunteer time and services, to just come help us project manage or to meet with us to give us some point or two, that's what we're doing. So there's a lot of talent. Helping with websites or the things that people do for their careers that they think are mundane can be very, very valuable if that makes sense. The food drives we are happy and gracious for anything, but sometimes those talents that people may not think they see or are needed in a nonprofit really are super, super valuable.

Lisa Munter: Yeah, and I love that again, that you, you're bringing light to this right, because sometimes people think that giving support means dollars and you know, oh, I don't have a lot of money to give, but really sometimes the most valuable thing is the gift of time, like you mentioned, the volunteering, and or your services and your expertise, because there's so many areas of you know you are not an expert in all of those areas and to have somebody coming in and to give that you know opinion or you know what they think should be done, is just like, oh my gosh, you just saved us hours, times, money having to hire somebody and you're coming in and you're giving us your time for free. And I think that that's really important for people to know that it's not always about the dollars. I mean, dollars are amazing and you'll take them and you need them Absolutely. No, I love that. And again, and I was waiting, I was hoping you were going to talk about this new, because this is a huge, you know, expansion for your organization and you know it's bittersweet right. It's such a blessing, but at the same time it's like, oh my gosh, where do we start? And there's so many areas that need attention, and that's really great.

Megan Quillinan: Yes, and part of it. Yeah, the art center on the Hudson that we know is right next door to our current location is just this beautiful church that's been restored and we want ideas on what programs. We want to be a community space. We want it to be a draw, we want it to be an economic driver for mechanic fill to give people a destination to come to down here. As well, as you know and we're open to ideas and suggestions and insight that again, other members from other sectors may have more input than we don't even know, we don't even know. You don't know what to ask. If you don't know what to ask, you know. You don't know what you need to do. If you don't know what you need to do, you don't know what you know. You don't travel in these circles. You don't. You know. I can run a food pantry. I can tell you the childcare regulations, I can help a victim of domestic violence get through navigate services, but to plan a construction project is like not a clue.

Lisa Munter: Yeah, that's a shut down fetal position kind of moment.

Megan Quillinan: It's just an easy example in our world right now of where time and talent is sometimes equally or more valuable than the natural dollars. So I love it. I feel like we're being burdened. When we got to develop what this community center looks like in the next 50 years, you know really, and that's a big task that shouldn't be just up to me, does that? You know? So community ideas are more than welcome.

Lisa Munter: Well, I appreciate you saying that. So is there something that you would want a new donor or some a new connection to know about your organization that maybe they wouldn't know by looking at your website?

Megan Quillinan: I would love people to know and understand that and to even reflect on your own lives. But that nothing is that, as it appears Many times, there's a lot more going on than what's the presents on the surface. So maybe if you look at our website or you look at a nonprofit that has a lot of a co location of a lot of different services, what we are able to do is interconnect within ourselves the services you know, where you may think it's just food pantry, that someone just is needing a couple meals. Well, there's probably more going on there. How can we help break that down? How can we help connect you with more affordable housing if there is any that exists out there? How can we connect you with childcare and help you fill out the applications to get the support and paying for childcare? How can we help you find a better job that might pay you a living wage so that you don't need our food pantry anymore? You know, the things we do internally is really trying hard to break down silos between different crises, different struggles families may be facing, and we are where it all overlaps because nothing is separate and I don't know how you convey that in a you know, looking at a list of programs an agency may have. But that and we're not alone in this, I think any small community based organization that's serving the needs of their community really is the place that can gray the lines and make connections that aren't always visible to the general general public.

Lisa Munter: Absolutely. It's the power of that storytelling that you just shared with us that you know allows people to understand. It's just more than just what words are on a website for sure. So in closing, you just shared what's something you would want people to know about your organization that they wouldn't know necessarily by the website. So we're going to end it with what is one thing that people are generally surprised to find out about you, Megan.

Megan Quillinan My favorite pet in the whole world right now is our big bunny named Bruce and he roams around our house and hangs out like he was a dog or a cat and he's awesome and I would strongly suggest anyone looking into adopting a bunny.

Lisa Munter: I love that. Is he house trained?

Megan Quillinan: He's awesome. Yes, they go in a litter box. Oh my gosh, Megan, he waits at the fridge for us every morning for his lettuce and blueberries, and he's just, he's fabulous. My husband brought him home and I thought, oh no, but I'm hot on a bunny named Bruce.

Lisa Munter: Well, I need to meet Bruce, that's for sure, absolutely. Well, I greatly appreciate you giving us your time today. It's always a pleasure to talk with you For all the support you're bringing.

Megan Quillinan: You know. Kniit is a great platform to really help make these kinds of connections, so we appreciate it.

Lisa Munter: Well, thank you so much, Megan, enjoy your day.

Megan Quillinan: Thank you. You too, take care.