Like most careers, my commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy was both unintentional and purposeful at the same time. My journey began shortly after I left my profession as a medical outcomes consultant after our twins were born. Through hard work and good fortune, I knew my future would include helping others instead of returning to the workforce. This dedication of time and treasure has been the most fulfilling and worthwhile vocation.
My initial foray into volunteerism was meaningful and heart breaking. I was a Big Sister to “Eliza” in Dorchester—spending hours at the Arnold Arboretum, swimming, painting our nails, and making cookies included conversations I’ll never forget. Eliza taught me the power of being present for a child. For me, the time we spent together began as a responsibility and developed into an act of love. After two years as a Big Sister, the organization lost track of Eliza and could not locate her. I was heartbroken. Yet my heart also grew as I realized the impact of commitment and consistency from role models in a child’s life.
As a result of my broken heart and a background in healthcare and medical outcomes, my next undertaking was a little less personal, but equally as important. The American Cancer Society was raising money for their Hope Lodge in Boston. The Hope Lodge provides temporary, free housing for cancer patients and their caregivers, creating a loving home during a scary time. My fundraising work with the Lodge was certainly meaningful and definitely vital to the opening of the Lodge, but my time was spent more on choosing tablecloths and party themes, rather than direct fundraising. After the opening and bringing our children to serve dinner to the cancer patients, I resigned from the committee and continued to search for a home for my time and talents.
Connecting with other communities became a critical component of my volunteerism, as the world I live in felt more and more insular. In 2014, Bryan Jr. and I embarked on a mission trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The earthquake victims in the most impoverished conditions were also the most generous, loving people we had ever met. Working with Marcellus, an earthquake victim and full leg amputee, and Reidy, our 11-year-old sponsored friend, made Bryan and me realize the impact of giving back. Working in medical clinics, building latrines in the bateyes, and teaching in the schools provided the final focus I needed. It led me directly where I needed to land when I returned to the United States, The Home for Little Wanderers.
What I learned writing through my many experiences in volunteerism is that all of my service work has circled around three causes dear to my heart: education, the safety and love of children, and health. The Home’s mission “to ensure the healthy behavioral, emotional, social and educational development and physical well-being of children and families living in at-risk circumstances” resonated deep within me and connects me to these passions. Perhaps all of my other volunteer efforts trained, prepared, and guided me to this inevitable spot on its Board. The Home serves and protects our most vulnerable children, families suffering with extreme poverty or from trauma and abuse, and bystander victims of drugs and violence. The Home brings me right back to Eliza, where all of the work feels like an act of love for each other and our community.