Stand & Deliver – Julie & Briannalys

Posted in Mentoring, Uncategorized, Youth Development on January 17th, 2022

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!



Big Friends Little Friends – Chris & Manu

Posted in Mentoring, Youth Development on January 17th, 2022

Chris and Manu first met in March 2020 when they were matched as mentor & mentee with Family Services’ Big Friends Little Friends program. Although they met at the beginning of a pandemic shutdown, they did not let that stand in the way of getting to know one another and building a relationship. They have been friends ever since!

Manu is in sixth grade and lives with his mother, Danielle, and sisters. Manu hadn’t had a healthy male role model in his life, and although he was connected to several supportive female role models, his mom knew the additional benefits that a male mentor provides. Danielle really wanted Manu to have the experience of a confidant, a great listener, a guide, and a friend. She also wanted Manu to have more fun times being a carefree kid.

Our Match Support Coordinator, Valorie Faretra, shares that Chris and Manu consistently got together during the pandemic, often when it would have been ‘easier’ to simply stay at home. Chris shares that he and Manu “enjoy our time together. Lately we have been making food like popcorn, hummus, and guacamole. Manu is a good cook! We’ll also go to the park across the street and play football and basketball or spend some time just hanging out and playing video games.”  Chris and Manu have also attended a Celtics game in November 2021, courtesy of a great collaboration between Shamrock Dreams and Mass Mentoring Partnership.

Danielle reflected that “watching [Manu] have a mentor like Chris has been absolutely life changing for Manu. It has also given me hope that he will see that there are other ways to grow up.” She goes on to add, “Manu really cherishes his time with Chris. He always asks when he is going to see him next. He is definitely having fun.”  Also, with all the ups and downs of virtual schooling and the impacts of the pandemic, Danielle is certain that having Chris as a stable role model has been very important and helpful!

Family Services is looking for more adult volunteers to mentor in its Big Friends Little Friends program.  Interested?  Apply HERE.




Samaritans Joins National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Posted in Suicide Prevention and Postvention on December 20th, 2021

Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley is officially now a member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network!  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week The Samaritans will maintain its local crisis line number and will expand the number of volunteers available to answer calls to the National Lifeline which originate from this geographic area.  

 If you are interested in becoming part of this life-saving program by volunteering to answer calls to the Lifeline, please contact the Samaritans Volunteer Coordinator, Jenny Ngo at [email protected]



A Trip to College

Posted in Mentoring on December 20th, 2021

For some students, college can seem like a distant dream, even when it’s literally right down the street.  To bring young people closer to fulfilling their dream of higher education, Family Services’ Stand & Deliver program took a group of 20 students from Lawrence High School and the Greater Lawrence Technical School to visit Merrimack College.  Students toured the campus, talked with current students, and got a better understanding of the college application and financial aid process.












Over 200 Join Walk for Hope

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!






Family Services’ Launches Diversion Learning Lab

Posted in Youth Development on November 4th, 2021

Teenagers are not known for their great decision making.  In fact, the stage of development from 12 – 20 is often marked by behavior that pushes boundaries and tests barriers as young people establish themselves as independent people.  And sometimes that behavior crosses a line and they find themselves involved with the juvenile justice system.  Family Services of the Merrimack Valley is pleased to now be partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) on a pilot project to divert young people from involvement in the justice system, and onto a path toward accountability, responsibility, and growth. 

The “Diversion Learning Lab” is a collaboration between Family Services, NFI in Lowell, Family Continuity in Worcester, DYS, the Massachusetts Juvenile Court and other stakeholders in the juvenile justice system.  This project is the result of two years of research and collaboration by the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Board’s Community Based Interventions Subcommittee, and was specifically designed to:

  1. Reduce recidivism and increase public safety
  2. Support positive youth development
  3. Promote and ensure equity in the Juvenile Justice System and diversion process
  4. Hold youth accountable for their actions

Michelle Martinez, Family Services’ new Diversion Program Pilot Site Director, will be responsible for working with youth and families, as well as with the DYS and other project partners to develop a model program that can be deployed statewide in the future.  “I’m excited to get this project off the ground,”  says Ms. Martinez.  “It’s a great opportunity to help young people start making healthier decisions, and support families navigating the difficult adolescent years.”  For more information, contact [email protected].


A Note from our President

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4th, 2021

A message from our Board President about the power of Kindness…

As the President of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, I am very proud of the impact the organization has on the lives of so many people in our community. The word that comes to mind when I think about Family Services and its impact on children and families in our community, is kindness.
I am writing now to share some highlights of how the power of kindness has been spread by Family Services this past year – a year in which people of all ages needed kindness more than ever!
This past year year, Family Services:
  • 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 was able to do all this with the support of people like YOU. With your continued support, they will do even more going forward!  
As you consider your charitable giving plans for year-end, we hope that you will choose to support this work with a tax-deductible gift to Family Services.
Thank you.
Gary Sidell
Board President
P.S. Monthly gifts are a convenient way to give and help Family Services sustain its positive impact throughout the year. Click here to learn more.

Stand & Deliver Kick Off

Posted in Mentoring, Uncategorized, Youth Development on November 4th, 2021

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.





Become a Friend of CASA

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14th, 2021

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.

Fall Fun at the Family & Community Resource Center

Posted in Uncategorized on October 13th, 2021

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.