Julie began volunteering in Family Services’ Stand & Deliver program in 2016. While working at Raytheon Technologies, she donates time each week to academically mentor a Greater Lawrence Technical School student. Julie first met her mentee, Briannalys, in 2019 when she was a sophomore. Since then, they have met weekly throughout each school year.
Julie and Briannalys embody what a thriving and fulfilling mentoring relationship can be like. When asked what makes them a great match, Julie says, “I think the fact that we genuinely care about each other’s lives is important.” Briannalys and Julie feel connected to one another beyond academic discussions, celebrating one another’s life events and sharing photos. Julie says, “I send pictures of my daughter’s cat, Princess Leia, and Briannalys sends me pictures of her guinea pigs. And I love to hear about her nephew when he visits her!”
The support extends within Julie’s family as well. She shares how her daughter offered ideas for one of Briannalys’ college essays, and that her husband once rescued them from a technology glitch while they worked remotely on a school assignment. The mentor-mentee relationship was enhanced when Julie was able to meet Briannalys’ family last summer at Stand & Deliver’s year-end celebration.
Briannalys is currently in an exciting college application process. Julie continues to assist with her academic pursuits, including receiving input from her guidance counselor on how to best support the college application process. Briannalys plans to pursue studies in architecture and civil engineering, and she is well on her way! She has been accepted to Merrimack College and awaits good news from Cornell, Brown, UMass Lowell, Wellesley, and Wentworth!
We did it! Together we raised over $20,000 to support Family Services’ Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley program.
We are so grateful for to the many individuals and organizations who supported and showed up to our 5th annual “Walk for Hope”. The outpouring of support we received for this event far exceeded our expectations and shows that we are making progress to end the stigma around mental health and suicide.
With 200 walkers and 14 sponsors, the proceeds from the Walk will enable us to take on some important projects this coming year, including:
- Developing a training program to help teachers, social workers, first responders, parents and others to recognize individuals who may be at risk;
- Provide ongoing individual and group support to those who have lost a loved one to suicide;
- facilitate a support group for people who have attempted suicide and survived; and
- Expand our crisis help line to reach thousands more people in crisis.
Thank you again to our 2021 Walk for Hope sponsors and everyone who joined, donated, volunteered or supported in any way!
A message from our Board President about the power of Kindness…
- Supported 1,197 parents, guardians, and caregivers through the challenges of raising children in a world upended by remote schooling, food insecurity, and emotional stress.
- Helped more than 650 young people become strong, confident adults through mentoring, leadership development, and individual support and guidance.
- Trained 656 professionals, volunteers and community members in suicide prevention, trauma response, relationship skills, and self-care.
Family Services’ Stand & Deliver academic mentoring program kicked off its new school year program last month with 66 matches! We are so pleased to partner with four companies (Raytheon, New Balance, Pfizer and Schneider Electric) and three schools (Lawrence Technical High School, Lawrence High School and the Bruce School), matching students with adult mentors who can help inspire academic achievement and professional success.
Recently, mentors and students got together for some much needed in person time to meet one another, enjoy some pizza, play a few fun games, and make plans for their weekly virtual academic mentoring sessions for the rest of the school year. We can’t wait to see how much these matches grow between now and May.
Family Services’ Essex County CASA program has recently kicked off another advocate training. Eight individuals are learning all about the juvenile justice system and how to effectively advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in our communities.
If you’re interested in supporting CASA but are not able to make the commitment of becoming an advocate, consider joining our “Friends of CASA” committee. Friends of CASA are volunteers who are interested in supporting the program through volunteer recruitment, planning and hosting fundraising events, and helping get the word out about the program throughout Essex County.
Interested? Contact the CASA Program Director, Danielle Emig, at [email protected] or 978-327-6615.
Did you know that Family Services actually has 2 sites in Lawrence? Our satellite space at One Union Street houses many of our family programs, including our Family & Community Resource Center (FCRC)! Operated in partnership with the MA Department of Children and Families, the FCRC provides a host of programs to parents and children, including weekly parent education classes, play groups, English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, youth development groups, special events and recreational activities. Most importantly, the FCRC provides individual support for people in need of a helping hand.
To contact the FCRC directly, call 978-978-8800 or submit an online inquiry form HERE.
Family Services is pleased to announce that it has received a grant of $10,000 from the Massachusetts Service Alliance to recruit at Latinx bilingual volunteers as mentors for it’s Big Friends Little Friends mentoring program.
Family Services’ Big Friends Little Friends program supports over 100 matches between volunteer mentors and youth , the majority of which come from Latinx families from Lawrence and surrounding communities. Dr. Dolores C Calaf, EdD, Volunteer Coordinator for the program, has been working with a group of Latinx volunteers who have been helping with a new promotion and marketing campaign in Spanish. The campaign consists of five strategies: 1) identify community stakeholders, 2) conduct community forums to understand the needs of Latinx youth, 3) develop an outreach work plan to engage adult Latinx mentors, 4) develop outreach materials and strategies in Spanish, 5) assess effectiveness of outreach strategies and modify activities as needed. The working committee members represent different areas of services including local business owners, educational, social services, and healthcare professionals as well as two state legislators.
“We are so pleased to be partnering with the Massachusetts Service Alliance to enhance our ability to match youth in our community with mentors who share their language and cultural identity,” said Aida Castro, Director of Community Support Services. “And we’re thrilled that so many volunteers have joined us to get this initiative off the ground, especially during this difficult time”, concluded her.
Family Services is a leading provider of comprehensive social services located in Lawrence, MA. The agency is committed to helping children and families build a better life by offering services in youth development, parent education and mental health and wellness. Rooted in compassion and respect for the diverse population it serves, Family Services helps over 7,000 people from throughout the Merrimack Valley each year. All services are based upon hope and the possibility that with support, individuals can thrive within their family, school, workplace, and community.
For more information or if you are interested in become a Latinx bilingual mentor, contact Dr. Dolores Calaf at 978-314-3125 or email her at [email protected]
- Merrimack College Assistant Director of Admissions, and former Stand & Deliver alum, Dauri Torres
- Northern Essex Community College Admissions Coordinator Thomas Ortiz
- GLTS Guidance Counselor, Mr. Chris “CP” Plourde
- UMass Lowell Assistant Director of Study Abroad & Financial Aid, Tonya Brito
- Stand & Deliver Raytheon mentor, Arie
- College Panel Participants and S&D alum: Keiddy, Javier, Manases, and Jennifer
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began and with the holiday season upon us, our physical and mental health continues to be tested. But there is another aspect of health that is also being tested and that is worth paying attention to: our spiritual health. Spiritual health refers to our sense of belonging, our feelings of shared humanity, and our sense of purpose in life. For many people, spiritual health is fed through a shared belief system or faith tradition (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, for example). But even for people who do not ascribe to a faith tradition, spiritual health is still relevant and important as it brings a sense of meaning and purpose to life.
During this time, when so much that we care about is at risk or has already been lost, we are becoming acutely aware of what really matters in life. The pandemic is forcing us to reassess our values, causing us to question our priorities, and inspiring many of us to seek solace and understanding in a connecting to a higher power or deeper meaning. Having a strong sense of purpose and meaning in life has been shown to positively affect all aspects of health. Research has shown that people with a strong sense of spirituality have less hypertension, cardiac and respiratory diseases, depression, and reactivity to stress.
But, like everything else, spiritual health requires some time and attention. If you could benefit from re-examining beliefs, the following exercises are a good place to start:
- Conduct a Values Exercise: Make a list of your values (just google “list of personal values” to get you started). Then start crossing off and prioritizing. You can also google “Values Clarification Worksheet” for a lot of online resources for similar exercises.
- Written reflection: Do some journaling about what matters most. Here are some prompts to get your writing juices flowing: “I felt most alive when…”; “The things that give me a feeling of peace come from …”; “I am grateful for…”. These exercise can help you clarify what truly matters in the big picture.
- Keepsake & photo collection: Gather up old photos and keepsakes from your life and put them all together in one place. Spend some time with these items and see if you notice any themes. Are you with family in each photo? Are your keepsakes all related to travel. Is there a nature theme among the items. Do the keepsakes and photos mostly relate to time with family? This exercise can help reveal the things you didn’t even realize were meaningful to you.
Once you have spent some time examining what brings a sense of meaning to your life, it’s time to implement strategies that help keep those values and priorities in the forefront of your daily life. Here are some tips for keeping your priorities in check:
- Read, Watch, Listen: There is a huge industry of spirituality-related media that can provide you with constant inspiration. Think of a book you’ve read or show you’ve watched and see what other content is recommended for people who like those authors or producers. The podcast industry is also full of great resources for every faith and spiritual tradition.
- Daily Reminders: What quotes are meaningful for you? Do you have a favorite passage from a holy book? Is there an image that conjures a meaningful memory? Print these things out and hang them where you will see them frequently (at your desk, in your car, on your nightstand, your smartphone screen). Frequent reminders to reconnect with what’s really important to us is a powerful way to stay connected to feelings of a higher purpose.
- Be a Joiner: Although physical gatherings are not really permissible right now, they will return. And online groups, chat rooms, Zoom meet ups are still taking place, bringing likeminded people together to share faith and community.
- Find Mentorship: If you belong to an organized religion, you may find solace in speaking with your faith leader. If you’re more secular, you may find mentors in personal relationships with family members, teachers, coaches or others who have a shared sense of values and purpose.
If you or a family member are struggling with stress and anxiety of the holidays, give us a call to schedule an appointment with one of our clinicians, 978-327-6600.
Appointments are currently being provided via telehealth.
The holidays will soon be upon us, and one thing is for certain, they won’t look or feel like previous years. According to the CDC, what most of us do over the holidays – gather together indoors – is exactly what we need to avoid this year because of the risks posed by the coronavirus. But many people are feeling down and could really benefit from spending time with loved ones. So, how can we approach the holidays in a way that keeps us safe and still fills our need for connection? Start with these tips:
- Safety First! Gathering indoors in large groups is a bad choice this year. If you are contemplating a gathering with friends or family, you should carefully consider the location of the gathering, the duration, the number of people, the incidents of COVID in guests’ home communities, and the behaviors of guests prior to and during the gathering. How all those considerations are managed will make a difference in the safety of your event.
- Recreate holiday traditions: Holiday traditions provide us with predictability, a sense of meaning, and a feeling of belonging. For these reasons, upholding traditions this holiday season may be more important than ever, even though we’ll have to modify their implementation. Plan ahead to figure out how to recreate in person traditions in a virtual environment. If you play flag football on Thanksgiving, get everyone connected for a game of “Madden for Xbox”. Cook and eat together via Zoom. Attend a virtual faith service together. Watch the same movie at the same time. With some creativity and planning, the possibilities are endless.
- Communicate your plans: Letting family and friends know that you have decided not to gather together may be difficult. Others may not agree with your decision and be angry or resentful. So long as you make a decision that is right for your family, you can feel confident that you’re doing the right thing. You should acknowledge that others may be hurt or disappointed, but don’t feel compelled to manage their emotions or convince them that your decision is the right one.
- Take time for gratitude and remembrance: This year might be the opportunity we all need to slow down and reflect on all that we cherish – including our close relationships. Take time this holiday season to watch old family movies, create a collage of past holidays, or write letters (good old fashioned letters) to loved ones that you cannot be with this year.
- Plan for 2020 Holidays Part 2: The holidays are just dates on the calendar. What they represent and the meaning they hold can be celebrated any time of the year. Plan a modified holiday celebration on the actual 2020 holiday dates, then also schedule a full, old school holiday celebration sometime in the future, maybe late Spring when (hopefully) the risk won’t be as high and we can comfortably gather outdoors.
- Keep up with your healthy habits: Hopefully, at some point during this pandemic, you have embraced healthy habits and self-care strategies. Are you going for a walk each day? Taking time for meditation? Exercising? Crafting? Whatever your healthy habits are, it’s important to maintain those behaviors during what is sure to be a stressful time.
- Honor those who are no longer with you: If you have lost a loved one, recently or years ago, it may feel good to take time to honor their memory this holiday season. Place a special centerpiece at the holiday table, or perhaps light a candle. Place their picture in a prominent spot, or even write them a letter.
- Acknowledge the emotions of sadness and disappointment: All of your efforts to make this year’s holidays special may still fall short. After all, nothing can replace being physically present with loved ones. These tips can take the sting out of virtual holidays, but you will likely still be left with feelings of sadness, disappointment, and longing. Rather than fight those feelings, acknowledge them. Make a place for them at the table, but let them know they will not be invited back next year.
If you or a family member are struggling with stress and anxiety of the upcoming holidays, give us a call to schedule an appointment with one of our clinicians, 978-327-6600.
Appointments are currently being provided via telehealth.