Bonjour à tous,

Once again, on behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I am proud to share with you WICE's accomplishments over the past year as well as our plans for the future. But before we do that, I want to make a special volunteer shout out.

Special Volunteer Shout Out!

WICE has accomplished a great deal over the past two years, and in each monthly newsletter we recognize volunteers who have made a real difference in achieving these accomplishments. Now I would like to use this special venue to recognize someone who the Board and I believe has been absolutely critical to WICE's success: our Vice President, Jay van Wagenen.

In the summer of 2022, when WICE was on the verge of dissolution, Jay was one of the original WICE members who developed and submitted a proposal to keep the association going. Once that proposal was accepted and a new board was formed, she became an absolute force of nature in planning, organizing, and accomplishing the many things that needed to be done to turn things around.

In addition to being WICE's Vice President, Jay is also the director of our language program, which is one of the broadest and most comprehensive in Paris. And she's been just as productive on the language front as she has been on the board. Under her leadership, the language program has added several new, innovative offerings, all of which have proven to be very popular and have attracted many members.

But that's not all. With a strong background in advertising, Jay served as acting director of our marketing department during an extended period when the position was vacant. Among other things, she led the design and development of our new website and graphic identity, and she played a key role in the marketing efforts for our recent Paris Writers Workshop.

These things alone would entitle Jay to special recognition. But she also fulfills an untitled role that puts her in a category of her own.

If you have ever been in charge of an organization, you know that one of the most important resources you can have is a good thought partner: someone who will always take the time to listen to your ideas, consider them, and then give you honest feedback. I can say without hesitation that Jay is one of the best thought partners I've had in my entire professional life. It's something that no one else ever sees, but I can assure you it has made all the difference in the world to the turnaround and success of WICE.

Well done, Jay, and thank you from all of us for all the hard work you've done and the untold time you have devoted to help make the new WICE succeed as it has.

Historical Overview

We've gained quite a few new members in the past year, and so—for the benefit of these new WICE members—I'd like to start with a review of our recent history before getting into the details.

In the late spring and early summer of 2022, WICE was preparing to dissolve. COVID had taken the wind out of our sails, and both membership and revenue had declined to the point that we had to give up our office, lay off our staff, prepare to give away our remaining assets, and call it the end of an era.

Several WICE members proposed that a new board be formed to give the organization another chance. The proposal was accepted, and in July 2022 a brand new board took the reins and began charting a new course.

The first year—from the summer of 2022 to the summer of 2023—could be characterized as being in crisis mode . With no documentation and very little corporate knowledge to guide them, the new board basically fumbled along in the dark, focusing on keeping our member-facing activities going while trying to figure out how to make all the moving parts—finance, programs, marketing, etc.—work together.

The second year —from the summer of 2023 to the present year—was much better. We had reestablished our financial health, and we started experimenting with new offerings. We had a much better understanding of how everything should work, and our overall characterization could be thought of as stabilization mode .

Now, as we enter our third year , we are preparing to hand over the reins to the next generation of WICE leaders. Next summer I, as president, and several other current board members are required, by statut, to step down. We are therefore committed to ensuring that the next President and new Board members will find a turnkey operation that requires little or no special effort to understand and operate. We can characterize the coming year, then, as preparing for transition mode , and we will talk about this more, below.

And with that brief overview of the past few years, I'll move on to discuss WICE's current state, starting with membership.

The WICE Membership

WICE has about 387 members, but the membership breaks out into a number of different categories. Here are several graphics to illustrate how our membership can be thought of (please keep in mind that because members come and go, these figure are all approximate).

Figure 1 shows the gender breakout of our members. We have about 292 women, and about 95 men.

Figure 2 shows how our members identify in terms of nationality. Americans are the dominant demographic here (179), followed by the French (102), followed by members from English-speaking countries (79), and then a smattering from here and there elsewhere in the world.

Figure 3 shows WICE age groups. We clearly tend towards an older demographic, with about 65% of our members (252) in the age category 60 or above.


Membership Categories

Figure 1


Membership Categories

Figure 2

Age Groups

Membership Categories

Figure 3

Another interesting view of WICE membership is in considering where our members actually live. The following graphics illustrate that.

Figure 4 shows the global distribution. By far the largest number live in France, as should be expected, with the next largest group living in the U.S.

Figure 5 shows the distribution in France. Almost all members live in Île de France or Paris itself, with a scattering around the rest of the country.

Figure 6 is Paris. Clearly the majority of members live in the 7th and 15th arrondissement, which is almost certainly a result of WICE's office spaces having been located in those two arrondissements over the years.


Membership Categories

Figure 4


Membership Categories

Figure 5


Membership Categories

Figure 6

How WICE is Organized

So how are these 387 people organized in WICE?

In very general terms, there are about 337 paying members and the approximately 50 volunteers who work to make WICE happen. But that's not the whole story.

The volunteers are divided into several different categories: The Board of Directors, Team Leaders, and Team Members.

Figure 7 describes the Board of Directors and its composition, and it shows the six teams that comprise WICE.

Figure 8 shows how most of the volunteers are distributed among the six teams. Each team has a Team Leader, indicated by the number "1" under the team box, and Team Members (the number below the "1"). As you can see, our Programs Team is by far the largest, with about 20 volunteers.

Figure 9 shows why the Programs Team has so many volunteers: it's because this is the team that plans, organizes and conducts all the member-facing activities that the rest of the WICE members interact with.

The Board and Volunteer Teams

Membership Categories

Figure 7

Volunteer Teams Composition

Membership Categories

Figure 8


Membership Categories

Figure 9

With that as an overview and insight into what WICE is and what we do, let's talk about this past year and some of the things we've accomplished.

The Year in Review

When we talk about member-facing accomplishments or plans, we're referring to things that you, the members, experience directly: our member activities. These are basically the things that people join WICE for.

When we talk about board-facing accomplishments or plans, we're referring to things that affect WICE governance, management, finances, etc.

We will start with our member-facing accomplishments over the past year:

  • We increased our social activities significantly. We now have an evening apéro every month, a pay-for-your-own lunch every month, and two morning coffees each month (thank you, Brise Rickey). All are extremely popular. We also began occasional UK/Irish lunches (thank you, Bryan Harty), occasional WICE Men's lunches (thank you, Jacques Rickey), and we are getting ready for a "Down Under" lunch for our Australian congingent (thank you, Jill Grinda).

  • We reinvigorated our Partnership Program with former Treasurer Annie Milgram taking the lead on that, and we have partnership arrangements with the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, the American Library as well as others (and more to come).

  • We kicked off a Literature program, and we now have two book discussion groups and a play reading group, with many thanks to Saumya Jetley and Anya Orzachowska for their efforts in making those things happen.

  • We started a Games and Crafts program—headed by Cathleen Bowen—with Valérie Helmbreck organizing a Wednesday needlework circle, Gail Carline organizing a Friday mahjong parlor, and Jo Jones organizing monthly indoor board games when the weather precludes pétanque.

  • We organized a first day trip—to Chartres Cathedral—to test the day trip concept, and we were very pleased with how well it went (more on that below).

  • We dipped our toe back into the food and beverage world with a very successful cheese tasting course in April (and next year we're plunging in).

  • We launched two new member publications, a monthly Members Only newsletter, and Monday morning Weekly Reminder.

  • We organized and conducted our 35th Paris Writers Workshop, which was highly successful thanks to the ceaseless efforts over eight months of a hard-working team consisting of Ellen Bryson, Meredith Mullins, Sara Somers, Susan Townson, Jay van Wagenen, and Angie Guyoton as well as the dozen or so volunteers who showed up during the week to assist with checking people in, serving food and beverages, running errands, and generally helping the workshop run smoothly.

And we had some significant board-facing accomplishments this past year as well:

  • First and foremost, we gained quite a few high-quality volunteers:

    • Nathalie Rodgers - WICE Treasurer
    • Susan Townson - Prospective Board Member
    • Elisabeth Iriart - Prospective Board Member
    • Isabelle Preston - Admin Team Leader
    • Virginia Toupin - Marketing Team Leader
    • Tillie Eze - Membership Team Leader
    • Peter Dull - Programs Team Leader
    • Yana Vachkova - Photography and Visual Arts Director
    • Pat Hallam - Walks, Talks, and Tours Director
    • Cathleen Bowen - Games and Crafts Director
    • Alejandra Gonzalez - Conversation Group Organizer
    • Brise Rickey - Morning Coffee Organizer
    • Jacques Rickey - Men's Lunch Organizer
    • Bryan Hartley - UK/Irish Lunch & Walks Organizer
    • Jill Grinda - "Down Under" Lunch Organizer
    • Saumya Jetley - Booker Books Organizer
    • Anya Orzechowska - Play Reading Organizer
    • Valérie Helmbreck - Needlework Organizer
    • Gail Carline - Mahjong Organizer
    • Bryan and Dominique Cossey - Finance Assistants
    • Loy Palma - Finance Assistant
    • Spoorthi Ready - Marketing Assistant
    • Peter Nusta - Marketing Assistant
    • José Pietri - IT Assistant and ChatGPT Specialist
    • Larry Tuteur - IT Assistant
    • Dan Raj - Google Analytics Specialist
    • Anna Gilchrist - "Weekly Reminder" Editor
    • Susan Vogt - "Members-Only Newsletter" Editor

  • We created a new website and graphic identity, thanks to the work of a superb team led by Vice President Jay van Wagenen and consisting of Angie Guyonton (project leader), Julie Charvet (graphic designer), and Chrissy Bishop (web developer).

  • We increased membership by about 120 members (with many thanks to our two "Membership Ambassadors", Kate Wolter and Caroline Hautcoeur, for their efforts in welcoming so many of these new members to WICE).

  • We increased our financial assets by about €11,684, with the majority of that coming from the Paris Writers Workshop.

  • We hired a former librarian to create a comprehensive, integrated information architecture that will greatly reduce the time it takes to find and use important WICE management and governance documents. And believe me when I tell you, we consider this a huge step forward for WICE management.

All it was a very good year, and we're very proud of what we were able to accomplish.

The Year Ahead

Looking ahead, we can again think of next year's goals as both member-facing and board-facing.

Member-facing Goals

Our member-facing goals are pretty straightforward: we want to continue doing the things that have been successful, and to build on them. To that end, we are considering the following:

  • More social activities. Anne Campbell-Crawford is going to test afternoon teas in October; Mary Bartlett has offered to do something along the lines of our morning coffees (although the details have yet to be decided); Tillie Eze is crafting a special Halloween event; and Cathleen Bowen is putting together a special apéro that combines snacks, drinks, and socializing with an onsite "painting for non-painters" class.

  • Expanded A-level French. By popular demand, we offered A2-level French classes this past year. Next year we want to expand that to include A-level conversation groups, and Jay van Wagenen, our Language Program Director, is working on putting that together.

  • Day trips. Our recent proof-of-concept day trip to Chartres was quite successful, and next year we would like to have at least one day trip a trimester to places like Fontainebleau, Giverny, Vaux-le-Vicomte, etc.

  • Life in France. We are considering a series of talks throughout the year that will provide our expat members with valuable information on buying or renting places, the notaire system, getting a French drivers license, navigating the health care system, and so on.

  • Health and Wellness. We talked about it last year, but never managed to make it happen. This year, though, we are committed to getting a Health and Wellness program of some sort started, beginning, perhaps, with a hamman group.

  • Hiking Club. Apparently WICE used to have a hiking club that took advantage of the excellent hiking trail system that surrounds Paris. We found that we have two avid hikers in our midst—Susan Townson and Peter Dull—and they are going to look into the feasibility of re-establishing a WICE Hiking Club.

  • Food and Beverages. As I mentioned above, we had a very successful foray back into the food and beverage world with Emily Monaco's cheese tasting class in April. This fall we're going to expand that into two cheese tasting classes—one general, one more regionally focused—and we're also going to have an initial wine tasting class courtesy of WICE member and wine educator Elisabeth Iriart.

  • Unpacking British Sports. Americans, in particular, tend to have a challenging time understanding those two quintessentially British sports, rugby and cricket. We are looking at a few afternoons or evenings during each of the respective seasons to have a knowledgeable player or sports fan explain the rules while watching a game or two. And then, of course, we'll cap off the experience by gathering for drinks at a local sports bar to enjoy the live action or catch the highlights on television.

  • Musical Showcase. WICE has a fair number of musicians of different stripes, from talented amateurs to professionals: pianists, horn players, flutists, trumpeters, singers, and so on. WICE member and professional pianist Debra Takakjian has suggested a musical showcase in which various members get 10 - 12 minutes to present a short piece or two of their choosing in a casual setting with drinks and snacks. Further discussions are in order, and we're going to aim for a December pre-holiday event.

Added to our current activities line up, these ought to make the coming year a year to remember.

Board-facing Goals

Board-facing goals are another story. As I mentioned above, several other WICE board members and I are required, by statut, to step down next year (we can remain on the board, just not in our current positions). Our board-facing goals, therefore, are goals designed to make the transition to the next generation of WICE leaders as easy and seamless as possible. We want to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the behind-the-scenes workings in WICE in order to make the management of WICE a truly satisfying part-time and fun proposition. Some of our key board-facing goals are:

  • Building and Strengthening the Volunteer Community. This is a top priority. The more quality volunteers we have, the more the work load can be distributed and the more satisfying volunteer involvement across the board can be. To that end, we are working on additional incentives for both the recruitment and retention of volunteers. These incentives include:

    • A mentorship program. We have a large number of successful retirees in WICE, and we would like to develop a program for tapping into some of their knowledge to help our younger volunteers negotiate professional and personal challenges. Cathy Steinberg has offered to take a leading role in making this happen.

    • 3rd party training. Some volunteer positions could use a level of expertise in specific areas, such as leadership or bookkeeping or event planning, that interested and otherwise capable volunteers might not have. We are considering paying to provide outside training, on a case-by-case basis, so that WICE will have the specific needed skills, while at the same time giving volunteers the opportunity to develop marketable skills.

    • Volunteer engagement activities. We want to give our six Team Leaders small budgets and the autonomy for organizing activities, such as team lunches and team apéros, to help create esprit de corps and a sense of community across the teams.

  • Outsourcing specified tasks. WICE used to have paid staff for a reason: because some of the association's technical and administrative requirements cannot be dependent upon the availability of technically experienced and proficient volunteers. This year we plan to outsource some of our IT, administrative, and (possibly) financial tasks in order to ensure smooth, continuous operations in critical areas.

  • Starting a Development Program. Although WICE is doing fine right now financially, the two previously mentioned initiatives will cost money, possibly a little more than we are currently able to make with membership and program fees. To help alleviate that, we would like to re-energize our development efforts and place increased emphasis on soliciting donations, holding fundraising activities, and applying for grants.

There are a few other board-facing goals, but these are the big ones—and the ones that involve money—and we look at their successful achievement as paving the path for the next generation of WICE leaders to smoothly and seamlessly take over.

Farewells and Welcomes

Unfortunately, we are bidding sad farewells to two highly esteemed board members: Ellen Feldman and Nicki Tillinghast. Ellen was one of the original WICE members who helped craft the proposal to keep WICE going, and she's served admirably on the board since then (in addition to publishing WICE Direct and teaching film courses in the language program). And Nicki has been our superb board Secretary for the past year, bringing a much-appreciated level of professionalism to the seemingly small—but vitally important—task of organizing and documenting the workings of the Board of Directors.

At the same time, we are welcoming two new members to the board. Elisabeth Iriart is a native French woman who will be representing our sizable French membership on the board, and Susan Townson—originally from New Zealand by way of 20 years in England—will be our new Secretary as well as a representative for our non-American members from other English-speaking countries.

Wrap Up

It's an indescribable feeling to look back over the year and think about all the interesting WICE members I've met, all the fantastic volunteers I've worked with, and all the remarkable things we've accomplished. And especially to look at how far we've come since the summer of 2022. This has seriously been one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life, and I am very much looking forward to the next year with all of you.

Rick Jones, President