Changes in Young Friends Staffing

Young Friends

Cookie Caldwell has served Philadelphia Yearly Meeting as the Young Friends Coordinator for 34 years. He is leaving some big shoes to fill when he retires at the end of December – this is a change Young Friends hasn’t seen in generations. Literally, Cookie’s gatherings include the grandchildren of his earliest program participants! Careful consideration has been given to the kind of support the program needs in this time of transition and the Yearly Meeting is pleased to share a staffing plan for Young Friends.

Hannah Mayer will step into the position of Program Coordinator in January.  She will begin by overlapping employment with Cookie in December and then will sail solo –with a team of youth program staff and the Young Friends community by her side.  Hannah has been appointed to this position by the General Secretary for a period of 18 months.

Hannah has served as the Assistant to the Young Friends program for nearly three years.  She has attended every gathering, supported the Permanent Nurturer’s committee, facilitated program, assisted with logistics and cared for the participants.  In addition she co-coordinated the week-long Young Friends event in August at Camp Onas, has been a Friendly Adult Presence in the middle school and children’s programs, and is active in the Young Adult Friends community.  In the past year she pioneered the volunteer coordinating work for the Yearly Meeting.  Currently she is co-coordinating the Middle School Program on an interim basis with Stephen Dotson.  Hannah has a breadth of knowledge of the Yearly Meeting and the youth programs as well as a deep commitment to and understanding of the Young Friends program.  Plus she is a lot of fun, easy to work with and loves the kids!  We are very pleased that Hannah is available to step into this role.

There are two primary reasons that a term-limited appointment was made instead of running a full search with resumes and interviews.  The first reason is a need for stability. After the long tenure of a single person in the position, we want to be mindful of preserving the culture and the knowledge of the program as the community moves into the immediate future without the super-seasoned staff person at the helm. Additionally, this isn’t the only position with staff turnover this winter: we are currently seeking applicants for the position of Program Coordinator who supports the middle school program.  Orienting two new staff to these positions at the same time has the potential for creating some rough waters while new staff settle in.  Stability in our youth programs allows attention and hearts to focus on the community and spirit and that’s our goal.

A second reason for making a term-limited appointment is flexibility. We are ensuring the ability to recalibrate and adjust as needed while we experience the effects of 1) Cookie’s departure and 2) decreased youth staff overall.  A term limited appointment with the expectation that the staff person’s responsibilities may need to adjust as the program adjusts allows us this flexibility.

We know that Hannah meets both these needs. The staff, the committees and working groups supporting Young Friends and the kids are all pleased with this way forward.

Friends with questions are encouraged to contact Christie Duncan-Tessmer, Associate Secretary for Program at or 215-241-7008.