This story was first published in ProPublica Illinois’ weekly newsletter. Sign up for that here.

This was a year of firsts at ProPublica Illinois. We brought you more than 130 stories in 2018, built our first interactive news application, launched a political column, published in Spanish and celebrated our first anniversary.

At our holiday party last week, we started several more firsts we hope will turn into annual traditions. We thought we’d share a few of them with you so you can get a sense for who we are beyond our work. (Speaking of our work, we know it’s that time of year for annual story roundups; you can check out some of our 2018 highlights here, here and here.)

From left: ProPublicans Melissa Sanchez, Jodi S. Cohen, Duaa Eldeib, Robin Fields and Derrick Clifton at our 2018 holiday party. (Louise Kiernan/ProPublica Illinois)

Because we celebrate a number of holidays here — including Hanukkah, Diwali, Eid, Christmas and, um, winter — we thought we’d add a twist to the routine potluck by asking people to bring in dishes special to them in some way, which meant we got to feast on Duaa Eldeib’s take on fatayer jibna, or cheese pies, and dreidel sugar cookies from Jodi Cohen, among other treats.

One of the most coveted presents in our first holiday gift swap? A book called “The Supreme Court: Landmark Decisions: 20 Cases that Changed America.” We asked the recipient to read aloud from it as we concluded the evening. Yes, we’re nerds.

We also wanted to start a year-end tradition of paying it forward, even in a small way. So we teamed up to support the Investigative Reporters & Editors’ student sponsorship program, which invests in the next generation of investigative reporters. That’s part of our mission, too.

We hope you are enjoying the holidays — however you celebrate or if you don’t — and look forward to hearing from you in 2019, which will bring a whole new year of investigative journalism. Thanks for supporting the work we do.

—From the ProPublica Illinois team

Rohan Patrick McDonald for ProPublica Illinois