It’s No Small Feat
Gibbet Hill Grill co-owner, Kate Webber, is at it again this holiday season with her magnificent gingerbread creations. This season, in addition to the restaurant’s annual fireplace mantle display, she has created an additional gingerbread house… actually it’s a (stunning) castle, and on December 12 it is to be raffled off and awarded to one lucky winner. Family Services of the Merrimack Valley is extremely honored as this year the Gibbet Hill Grill team will be sharing the raffle’s proceeds with our organization. Tickets are on sale now through December 12. With the gingerbread castle drawing taking place well before the Christmas holiday, the lucky winner will enjoy plenty of time to adore (and indulge). Raffle tickets may be purchased in person at Gibbet Hill Grill, located at 61 Lowell Road in Groton, MA , or by visiting the restaurant’s website. We recently caught up with Kate during Gibbet Hill’s busy holiday season…
We hear that these gingerbread creations are a (family) tradition? Would you care to share any backstory on that?
I started making gingerbread houses with my aunt when I was two years old (I was admittedly just sitting on the kitchen counter). It was something I continued doing with her through my childhood. Hers were always elaborate, and so I learned to make involved and crazy buildings from the beginning. Eventually I started making them on my own either alone or with my mother. They got more and more elaborate as the years went on, but were only for my family. When we opened our first restaurant in 2004, I realized I needed to step up my game because a lot of people were going to see them!
Incidentally, my aunt still makes gingerbread houses every year and raffles them off for charity. Some of her most impressive endeavors have been the US Supreme Court Building and a model of the White House were it set up to be environmentally friendly.
What called to the restaurant to steer your generosity, this holiday season, towards the work we do here at Family Services of the Merrimack Valley?
One of the core values of the Webber Restaurant Group is Community, and therefore we like to support non-profits directly around us. Family Services of the Merrimack Valley is doing such important work assisting the people of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover who were displaced and affected by the devastating gas fires in September. Although it happened over two months ago, so many people are still being deeply affected by that tragedy, and any help is incredibly necessary. At the same time that they are working on this recovery, Family Services of the Merrimack Valley continues to provide family and parenting support, youth programs, mentoring, counseling, and child services to that community. It’s no small feat.
Any special tips you can offer to the amateur gingerbread house architect? Are there particular candies which are for your team a must?
First and foremost, it’s important to have fun. For a regular-sized gingerbread house, use canned icing from the grocery store to hold your walls together. Use a lot of it, and everything will stick together just fine! Be patient, and wait for the walls to dry before you put all the candy on. And use candy canes for decorations! It makes everything more festive.
Any numbers you can share in terms of how many pounds of candy/sugar went in to this amazing castle you have built?
I know that overall this entire season we used 30 pounds of sugar and 6 dozen eggs for the two houses we made, the one for the raffle and the one that sits on the mantle at Gibbet Hill. As for how many pounds of candy… that number is immeasurable. Buckets. I can say that putting the Necco wafers on this one castle took approximately 8 man hours, several of those put in by my 92-year-old grandmother.
The Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund is accepting donations through December 31, 2018. If you would like to to support the thousands of people affected by this crisis, or learn more about local relief efforts, please visit the Essex County Community Foundation’s Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund.
Meet our Partners at Uncommon Threads…
With a natural flair for style and a down-to-earth approach to fashion, Wardrobe Stylist and Style Blogger Susan Kanoff has the innate ability to create fabulous outfits for women of all shapes and sizes. A former social worker, Kanoff has in recent years made a name for herself by curating stylish outfits for all body types, personalities and lifestyles and by sharing her experiences in her wildly successful blog, The Midlife Fashionista. She seamlessly (and passionately) fuses both of these skill sets in her role as the Founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Uncommon Threads, an “empowerment boutique” for low income women and domestic violence survivors. Family Services of the Merrimack Valley is delighted to partner with the organization, located at 60 Island Street in Lawrence, as they champion women employing clothing and style as tools for increasing self-worth.
Open to the public, Uncommon Threads’ clients receive a private styling session with one of their “volunteer stylists” to identify their best styles and colors and how to dress to project a positive image – then receiving up to four complete outfits for a suggested (and able to be waived) $10 donation to the program. Uncommon Threads was born in the spring of 2017 as Uncommon Closet – a storage space for donated clothing (from apparel makers such as Chico’s, Ecru and French Lessons) which hosted occasional pop-up shops with all proceeds funding their mission. Those early initiatives were met with a swell of community support and media attention. This enthusiasm continues to fuel the organization’s evolution and today, as Uncommon Threads, they identify themselves as a “women’s empowerment center”. Monthly self-esteem focused workshops and groups provide women with information as well as a place to connect with other women (breaking the feeling of isolation). Future plans include a mentoring program (called “Uncommon Friends”), as well as stress management and beauty services. Uncommon Threads’ new “Senior Style” program brings their boutique shopping to women in nursing homes and is enjoying much success in their pilot program with Nevin’s Nursing and Rehabilitation in Methuen. “Our goal is for women to feel nurtured, beautiful and confident by changing the way they view themselves and the way they are perceived by others,” shares Kanoff and her team. “Although we can dress a woman for a job interview or the workplace, we can also style women who are not able to work due to emotional trauma, age or circumstances. We believe that all women deserve to feel beautiful.”
Relying on an army of 190 volunteers, Uncommon Threads’ Assistant Director Lysanne LaPierre and its Marketing Assistant Elizabeth Mullard (pictured together above) go to great lengths to manage the experience for both their staff and clients. Andover resident LaPierre, with a long history of supporting local non-profits, sees a real power in clothing and now passionately lends her business skills to the center’s mission of seizing that potentiality. “Clothes are just a means to an end for us… Clothes will always be fundamental to what we do here, but our goal is to raise self confidence, self-esteem and self worth so that our clients can achieve whatever goals they may have,” says she. “We are fortunate to have a fantastic team of volunteers who help us carry out that goal, and we want them to feel (through their service) as though they are truly making a difference.”
There are a number of opportunities for supporting the work of Uncommon Threads… one of which is by donating your barely worn women’s clothing such as shoes, jewelry, handbags and accessories in new or nearly new condition and in-style. All items must be in perfect condition – either new or nearly new, and packed in lightweight shopping bags, or on hangers. Or, maybe you own a high-end piece that you will never use? If so, please consider donating those designer items to their shop, Uncommon Closet at its 60 Island Street in Lawrence All donations are tax deductible and all proceeds help pay for rent and operating expenses necessary to run the program. Donations can also be made locally at Salon Navid located at 8 Main Street in Andover.
- Plus size clothing
- Denim jackets
- Skinny jeans
- Black pants
- Clothing with tags on
- Sandals and sneakers
- Bras (gently worn or new)
- New underwear
- Velvet-covered clothes hangers
Uncommon Closet is open for (“guilt free”) public shopping at its 60 Island Street location on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 AM – 2PM. The shop is also available for private shopping events. Please contact Lysanne LaPierre at: [email protected] for further information about booking Uncommon Closet for your next personal or corporate gathering. Family Services of the Merrimack Valley is a non-profit social service agency engaged in game changing work which helps children and families live their BEST lives. Our purpose is to drive outcomes, and we do so by nurturing inner strengths, teaching life skills, championing emotional wellness and providing vital community-based resources in the Merrimack Valley.
Cooking Matters Concludes Parents as Teachers Series
It’s a Wednesday morning, and twelve parents are gathered engrossed in conversation. The topic? Meal time. Grace Burchard of the Massachusetts division of Cooking Matters is driving the group probe of, “what are healthy choices?” The parents on hand are participants in the five-week Parents as Teachers series presented at Family Services’ Family & Community Resource Center. Week five’s nutrition presentation unfolds in Spanish and sports more of a round-table feel, with nearly 100 percent participation from the (mostly) moms on hand. “With all of the branding and choices out there, grocery stores can be overwhelming, even for people who speak the local language,” points out Burchard as she distributes nutrition facts (los datos nutricionales) while quizzing the moms on a wide range of topics from Froot Loops to Cheerios.
“The smallest change really does make the biggest difference. Switching from a high fat to a low fat milk or switching from a white processed bread to a whole bread can really start incorporating healthier lifestyles and changes so people can live happy and healthy and (hopefully) longer lives with less health problems,” suggests Burchard as she details the curriculum’s intent. Cooking Matters works to make sure all kids have the healthy food they need every day by helping families to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget through their Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. As with our Family & Community Resource Center presentation, the participants in Cooking Matters courses and are moms, dads, grandparents, caregivers, kids and teens who want to make healthy meals on a budget. Through the programming they learn to shop smarter, use nutrition information to make healthier choices, and cook delicious, affordable meals. Cooking Matters courses are taught by volunteers among which are chefs, students, Registered Dietitians, nutrition educators and people with a passion for good food and making a difference.
Family Services is delighted to partner with Parents as Teachers in bringing to the Merrimack Valley valuable programming which supports parents and their young children. Founded in Missouri in 1984, Parents as Teachers National Center is an international nonprofit organization that promotes the optimal early development, learning and health of young children by supporting and engaging their parents and caregivers. Their internationally recognized network uses an evidence-based model to deliver parent education primarily through personal visits and group meetings. In doing so they equip parents with knowledge and resources to prepare their children, from prenatal through kindergarten, for a stronger start in life and greater success in school. Parents as Teachers serves more than 195,000 children in all 50 U.S. states, more than 100 Tribal organizations, schools and communities, five other countries and one U.S. territory.
While their Moms are being educated on healthy snacks and such, 20 plus children are across the hallway playing, singing and socializing under the guidance of Beatriz Alvarado a Senior Family Planner with Children’s Friend and Family Services. “We began this series five weeks ago with maybe six families in attendance. Now, we have more than twelve. I’m going to miss them,” reports Alvarado as she preps some bubbles for a closing celebration. “Over these five weeks I’ve seen a lot of growth and increased interaction with both the kids and their parents. These classes offer parents a great opportunity to get to know their child’s brain and then best meet their needs. As the program ends, we always offer handouts which encourage mothers and fathers to continue our teachings at home.”
Family Services partners with the Department of Children and Families to provide the Family & Community Resource Center, located at 530 Broadway, 3rd Floor, Lawrence, MA. All services are free and open to all families in Essex County and they include:
- Assessment and family support planning.
- Peer-to-peer support groups for youth, grandparents raising grandchildren, and “Parents Helping Parents”.
- Life skills workshops for youth, parents and families, such as bullying prevention, financial literacy and behavior management.
- Cultural, social, recreational, and community service activities, including holiday gatherings, bingo nights, and National Night Out.
- Information and referral services.
- English as a Second Language classes.
To learn more about upcoming programming, please contact the center at 978.975.8800.