The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 14, 2007

Features

Deb Kablotsky (at left) and Lauree Eckler hold the Parents Connection banner as they lead the troops in the Old Home Day parade last June. (Photo by Mollie McPhee Ho)

Kids come first at Parents Connection

Parents now that school is back in session, are you looking for something to do with your younger children? Or perhaps you're new to town and would like to meet other parents with young children. The Carlisle Parents Connection (CPC) might have just what you're looking for.

The Carlisle Parents Connection is a non-profit group that organizes playgroups and events for families with children ages five and under. The CPC was founded in 1995 with the help of First Connections of Concord, a non-profit division of the Justice Resource Institute that provides resources and programs for families with young children in the 11 towns around Concord.

Kim Flynn, Elissa Abruzzo and Pat Simon are three of the original members who got things rolling in Carlisle. Since then, many parent volunteers have helped the organization grow into the valuable parent resource that exists today. "The CPC is a great way for families to connect with the town and each other," says Heidi Kidder, who is currently serving a two-year term as the playgroup coordinator. "It's a great organization, especially for people new to town."

Parents Connection members (left to right) Jen Derkazarian, Joy Bonenfant and Carren Panico work at the charity tag sale held last fall. (Photo by Mollie McPhee Ho)


Playgroups

The playgroups are the best-known part of the CPC. Kidder got involved in the CPC when she first moved to Carlisle three years ago. "I didn't know anyone in town," she recalls. "My neighbor invited me to come to a CPC playgroup that she was hosting at her house. My daughter and I went and we made many great friends — we are still attending the same playgroup." Although most groups are organized by age, siblings are always welcome so there is often a mix of ages. Most families are from Carlisle, although there have occasionally been families from other towns.

Although the CPC is best known for their playgroups and seasonal events, they also organize parent support groups, ladies nights out, and intermittent activities at a variety of venues, such as tours of the Whole Foods store in Bedford and story time at Hopscotch Books, located on Spruce Street in Acton. The CPC also offers other free or low-cost family programs.

Welcome new babies

The seasonal program kicks off in September each year with the New Baby Event. This year the New Baby Event for Carlisle babies born in the last 12 months will be held on Saturday, September 29, from 10 a.m. until noon, at Diment Park on Church Street. All families with new babies are invited to meet other new parents and get connected. For more information, e-mail tlynnmcardle@msn.com.

In October comes the Halloween event, where children dress in costume for a small parade, share snacks and participate in arts and crafts. The Holiday Pot Luck Supper and Winter Social help keep families in touch during the cold winter months, while the annual Egg Hunt welcomes spring to Carlisle.

Enjoying last October's Dads and Donuts event at Diment Park are, left to right in the foreground, John Rule and son Parker; Riley and Ames Scott with dad George Scott. (Photo by Mollie McPhee Ho)

Other fun-filled spring and summer events include Dads and Donuts, Wash-A-Fire-Truck day and the Tag Sale for Charity. The volunteer managers who run these events hire an assortment of talent from jugglers to singers and there are always several activity stations that offer face painting and other arts and crafts.

Volunteers run events

Deb Kablotsky, the current CPC chairperson, is responsible for coordinating the volunteer event managers. "I enjoy working with all the volunteers. They are friendly, enthusiastic and we all speak the same 'language' and can relate to each other's experiences with kids," she says. "Our kids are the same or very close in age and most of them will be going through the Carlisle school system together." In addition to recruiting and coordinating the volunteers, Kablotsky acts as the point person for the organization, which involves sending out informational e-mails to the membership about upcoming events. She calls board meetings to plan future events, handles the e-mail list and designs and updates the web site.

Kablotsky also attends monthly community meetings with other parent groups at First Connections at Emerson Hospital. Her involvement allows the CPC to operate under the First Connections umbrella and receive liability insurance free of charge and a small yearly stipend.

The program operates on a volunteer basis and yearly family membership dues are a modest $25, which covers all events for members. Non-members may attend events for a $5 fee. Carren Panico is the current treasurer for the organization. Mollie McPhee Ho, the membership coordinator, is in charge of keeping the roster up-to-date and is working with Kablotsky to increase membership by recruiting new families to the program. At present the organization has about 60 family memberships.

Informational web site

The Parents Connection web site, www.carlisleparentsconnection.org, offers a wealth of information designed for parents of young children. In addition to activities and events, the site includes recommendations by members for day trips, pizza delivery places, and car repair, among others. A page called "Resources" provides links to a host of local web sites that will be a godsend to often harried parents. Here you will find links to local preschools, museums, gymnastics programs, outdoor and indoor activities and music, all with the under-five cohort in mind.


2007 The Carlisle Mosquito