Did you know that there are 20 young girls from Charlestown on the waiting list for Big Sister volunteers? Have you ever considered volunteering for a few hours each month?
True confession: I procrastinated about Big Sister – on and off - ever since I moved to Boston eight years ago! I fretted about the time commitment. I hemmed and hawed over cramming one more activity into my calendar. And, truth be told, I worried that what I have to give might not be enough.
Still, I kept hearing story after story about consistent, amazing results from both Big Brother and Big Sister (they are two different organizations in Boston). And I knew that if I was going to volunteer anywhere, my first choice would be Charlestown, naturally!
I was still hibernating in procrastination mode a few months ago when - to my great delight! - Lora Pellegrini popped the question.
A resident of Charlestown, Lora is President and CEO of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans and immediate past president of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (MWPC). She’s also a very devoted Big Sister. Over lunch, Lora explained that Big Sister was looking for “a few good women” to volunteer in their school-based programs at Harvard Kent, Warren Prescott and the Charlestown Boys and Girls Club. In order to spread the word, she agreed to host a cocktail party. And then, without missing a beat, Lora asked me if I would jump on board as co-host…
How could anyone possibly say “no” to such a great cause?
The rest, as they say, is history. From the moment I arrived at Todd English’s newly re-opened Olive’s Restaurant, which had graciously donated the party (thank you, Mary!), it was clear that we had assembled an all-star cast of Charlestown’s “movers and shakers”: Robin Azar, Amy Branger, Julie Burns, Alexis Finneran (from State Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty’s office), Danielle Valle Fitzgerald (from Mayor’s Menino’s office), Kelly Pellagrini, Lois Siegelman and Tara Seigal-Ryan, just to name a few. My colleague Gen Conlin, Spaulding’s Director of Nursing, joined us as well. Gen and I were both thrilled to spend time with several of Spaulding’s new neighbors-to-be: Kate Filo and Sara Kalbko from the Basilica as well as Anna Geraty and Laure Maiellano from the Residence Inn by Marriott Boston Harbor on Tudor Wharf.
What a fabulous night! The food, the wine, the conversation…Just when I thought the party couldn’t possibly get better, someone handed me a flat “tart” covered with charred pistachios and herbed ricotta…sheer bliss!
When it was time to get serious, Jason Gallagher, Principal of the Harvard/Kent Elementary School and Marie Turley, Executive Director of the Boston Women’s Commission, discussed the mission and success of Big Sister in Charlestown. Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley spoke passionately about her conviction that healthy girls make healthy communities. She encouraged all of us to empower girls, give them guidance and offer them strength. Ayanna closed her speech with this charge from novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand: “The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.”
By the end of the evening, 12 of the party guests - including me - had signed up as Big Sister volunteers in Charlestown. Although we’re a high energy group, many more Big Sister volunteers are needed. If you’re interested in learning more, let me know! You can also find additional information and applications online.
Without exception, every Big Sister I’ve ever spoken to says that she volunteered because she wanted to “give back” to her community in some way, but after all was said and done, she felt that she received even more than she gave. As for me, I’m particularly looking forward to working on new school-based programs related to health. Besides that, I also have a couple of great tips to share on how to knit a perfect winter hat…