As of this year, I’ve been an HR volunteer leader for 20 years. It’s hard to believe that time has flown by so quickly !! I remember when I first got involved, I went to a Volunteer Leaders Summit in Crystal City, Virginia. I was an officer on my local SHRM chapter’s board. It was great to go to the conference to learn and be around other volunteer leaders. We went to an Irish pub down the street from the hotel where we were staying and we had a blast !!
Little did I know that it planted the seed for a gathering place for years to come.
The first time we went out though, we only hung out with the people from our chapter in Cincinnati. We didn’t interact with anyone else. It didn’t strike me as odd at the time, but as the years kept passing, it started to really eat at me. You have to keep in mind that this was long before social media. It made sense to hang out with folks you knew, but I wondered why we didn’t try to meet other HR peers because we were literally surrounded by them.
At subsequent Volunteer Leader Summits and at HR conferences in general, people continued to congregate based on geography. This was true during the event itself in sessions or when people gathered for lunches/dinner. People kept within the boundaries of their cities or states. It didn’t make sense to me and I wanted to see something change.
When I was the State Director of Ohio SHRM, we met for the Summit at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland. I decided it was time to break the geographical model. So, I found another Irish pub and took a group of Ohioans along with me. While we were at the pub, I left my friends to introduce myself to everyone else in the pub and asked them to join us. I know – radical. However, I couldn’t recall it ever being done. Soon our group was full of people from Montana, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico and more !! We realized that we needed to be together as people and HR pros. It was a natural and easy connection to make.
After a few years, our conference location moved to downtown Washington, D.C. When we were “done” for the day with sessions, it was time to venture out once again and I found the best haunt EVER for us to assemble in the middle of the Chinatown district – Fado’s Irish Pub & Restaurant.
Now, since we broke the invisible geographical barrier a few years earlier, people were more interactive during the conference and were asking where and when we were going to meet. I asked everyone to meet me at Fado’s because it had a cool vibe, great food, adult beverages and space for us to all meet. The first night we had about 25 folks come out. Each night the number grew and more people ventured out to meet new friends as well as hang out with those they knew. We shared so many laughs, stories and experiences. We truly were becoming an HR community !!
Then, as fate would have it, the SHRM Annual conference was in Washington, D.C. in 2016. This meant there would be a larger group of HR pros that we could coax to Fado’s. And, we did. Every. Night. If there were social events planned, we’d go to Fado’s afterward. It became a go-to gathering place for us. One night I will always cherish was when I first joined the SHRM Board of Directors and everyone was eager to get me to come out to the pub. I was planning on it, but didn’t know why there was such a sense of “urgency.” It didn’t seem like any other night. I was mistaken.
As I showed my ID (which was required regardless of your age), I looked up and tears filled my eyes as everyone in the pub was wearing tie-dye to celebrate my new role. Some of the pub staff were also wearing the shirts. It was spectacular because it showed the power of what coming together as people means.
Since that night, we’ve been back to Fado’s many more times including last year in November. Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d get to enjoy the darkened wood, sticky floors and smell of Irish ale. Fado’s announced that it was permanently closing its doors as of April 2020. This wasn’t because of the current pandemic, it was due to their lease and relationship with their landlord. When they made the announcement on Facebook, there was an outpouring of stories, photos, memories and thank you’s.
I would like to add this one more “Thank You” to all that’s been shared to date. I can tell you that I’ve developed, and built on, friendships I cherish and am reassured will last for my lifetime. The familiar feel and welcoming spirit of Fado’s gave us the perfect environment to foster healthy relationships across boundaries.
I know that people are getting together more often now even if it’s virtually. My hope is that the efforts we make to come together intenionally only builds and doesn’t wane when we get back to our old patterns of life and work. I know that I will continue to do my best to bring folks together and hopefully we’ll find a place as great as Fado’s has been to do so.
We all need a Fado’s in our life !! So, I lift a pint and offer Sláinte !!