12/20/2011 01:03 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2012

826dc Celebrates One Year of Innovative Writing Programs for Under-Served Youth

At a time when educational programs in the arts are taking heavy funding hits, it may come as a surprise to some that 826dc, the D.C. chapter of 826 National, has celebrated its one-year anniversary in the nation's capital.

Working out of its headquarters at the Museum of Unnatural History (its logo cleverly mimicking the Smithsonian's) at 3233 14th Street NW, 826dc provides writing programs for underserved youth with the goal of improving writing skills while encouraging creativity. 826dc does this through writing workshops, outreach to schools, field trips, producing student books, and an afterschool program that helps students with their homework in addition to providing structured reading and writing exercises.

The D.C. chapter is one of eight chapters of 826 National, an organization founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari. Modeled after the original chapter located in San Francisco, each chapter has an ostensible "storefront" that sets a whimsical yet creative tone: while D.C.'s is a museum, Seattle's is the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company, Chicago's The Boring Shop ("sells nothing of interest and is certainly not an outlet for spy equipment" -- and would fit right in here, too) or Boston's Bigfoot Research Institute. While the storefront attracts the casual observer's attention, it's what goes on behind the storefront -- the study room full of tables and chairs, desks and armchairs -- where the serious work is done.

And serious work it is. According to Executive Director Joe Callahan, since opening its doors in October 2010, 826dc has served over 1800 students and worked with 30 schools in the DC system, including the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, Cardozo, Woodrow Wilson, Caesar Chaves, and more. Among its more innovative programs is a newly released iPad app featuring student writing. And, of course, being located in D.C. allows 826dc to work with partners not available to other chapters, such as the Library of Congress, the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and the Department of Education.

826dc is always looking for volunteers and -- since it is a non-profit -- donations from benefactors who understand the need for innovative programs designed to develop the talents of our most important resource: our next generation. Interested parties are encouraged to find out more about the chapter or to contact Callahan through its website,