After just more than a year in a light-filled office with windows overlooking children at play, Maggie Lancaster’s enthusiasm for her job is palpable.

Executive director of Grand Rapids Children’s Museum since June 2016, Lancaster came to the organization after having worked as a volunteer and board member for 14 years. Prior to that, she was a history teacher and girls’ basketball coach.

“I’ve always been around play in one way or another,” she said.

Now, she gets to witness play changing an increasing number of lives. The museum expects to break attendance records, with more than 200,000 visitors coming through its doors this year — a feat she describes as “incredible,” given the museum’s $1.5-million budget and 14,000-square-foot space, comparatively small for a museum in a mid-sized city.

Paired with that milestone, for the first time in its history, the museum is debt-free.

“We are able to look into our future without having any debt or a mortgage hanging over our head. And that is amazing and very unique for a nonprofit,” she said. “We have worked very, very hard this last year to get to this point.”

Lancaster credits the vision of the museum’s founders — Alyce Greeson, Carla Morris, Aleicia Woodrick and Georgia Gietzen — for the position it is in today, as well as board members like Dale Rietberg, a business attorney at Varnum who wrote the GRCM bylaws in 1993.

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