Martha’s Vineyard Family Center

Jen Hawkins O'Hanlon, REALTOR®


So many changes have occurred in all businesses during the Covid-19 crisis. Kim D’Arcy tells Jen about how the Family Center is providing support to their members and what new offerings they have during this time.
  • Hey, everyone! I am here with Kim D’Arcy of the Martha’s Vineyard Family Center which is part of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. And we’re gonna talk about everything that they’re offering right now. Kim, can you give everybody a little background of how you started with the Family Center and then everything that you all offer.
  • Sure, so as you mentioned, Jen, the Family Center is one of three early childhood programs at the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. My background is in education. When I was first on the island, I was a teacher and then left to have my own family. And when I came back into the workforce, I found that I wanted to work with parents and children together. So the Family Center seems like a natural fit there. The Family Center is a unique program and now, we’re funded by two funding sources, two grants. One through EEC, which is Early Education and Care and the other is through Children’s Trust. And both of these philosophies go together and mesh really well to help families. We work with families pre-adoptive, prenatal, until age eight. And the goal of our work is to strengthen and support families. The unique thing about parenthood is that it is a universal struggle. It crosses all racial, ethnic boundaries. It crosses financial resources, it’s similar off island here, wherever. So parenting is a struggle no matter what your resources are even if your background is in early childhood. So some of the things that the Family Center offers are programs that support families working with children. And families tend to be engaged, extended families, grandparents, foster parents, not just birth parents as well. So some of the programs that we typically offer support group, we do a lot of parent education, parent-child activity, and we really respond to the needs of the community. So at this time, obviously, our program has shifted and changed a little bit to respond to the stay at home orders and COVID-19.
  • I’m sure it has. What things are you doing? I know some of the programs. When my daughter was seven, now we don’t use the Family Center as often as we used to, but we definitely did baby’s first year and then we also went to the Family Center a lot just for play time. And what things are you able to offer and what are you not?
  • So our May calendar has moved most of our programming virtually. So right now we’re offering a couple of support groups that we do via Zoom. We’re offering some play groups which are pre-recorded play groups with Kristen Coogan that we put out on Facebook. And the children, as opposed to watching somebody they don’t know, they have an opportunity to see this wonderful person that they actually know, in real life, and they think she’s a movie star. And then we have, our bilingual service provider is offering bilingual story time which are both in English and Portuguese on Facebook live. And then we’ve offered some parent-child activity, right now, Jessie from the yard is offering the movement class for us on Friday morning. Fallon Aiello is offering a baby and me yoga class via Zoom once a week, and we’re collaborating with the YMCA to do some things around mindfulness and doing a sharing activity and a movement break during the week. In addition, we’re offering some evening support groups for our parents raising children with special needs. And then each week, I think you’re gonna get but each week we’re doing some concrete type of support. And that’s where majority of our programming right now has shifted. It’s since we’re not able to do as much in person things, we’re doing more concrete support and individualized support for families.
  • Okay, and what does that mean? What is the concrete support?
  • So, so concrete supports are things that help families, I can’t, let’s say, pay your eclectic bill for you, but I can help you in other ways and so we have a wonderful collaboration with the Good Shepherd Parish which gets food from the Greater Boston Food Bank. And so each week, I collect a parcel, a bourbon, of groceries that I then able to pack up for families and to deliver to families or have families pick up that.
  • Oh, cool.
  • We have a huge, generous population of the island that has been able to give us finances in order to purchase diapers and wipes for families, realizing that this is, one, they’re very hard to find, and they’re expensive. We also have formula for folks that are choosing to feed their infants with formula. So all of those are concrete resources that families are able to reach out to, myself, and be able in English or Portuguese, be able to access some of those resources.
  • Great!
  • But in addition, concrete resources can look like individual conversations with staff, support, FaceTime, visit, you know, I know that there’s a lot of parenting challenges right now and sometimes having someone to talk to about those things can be helpful.
  • Oh, I think that’s a great point, ’cause sometimes it’s not about just joining in on a group call, you just really need to talk to somebody. So that’s great you’re there for that. And I was looking at the calendar and I noticed activity bags were on there, and I’m wondering what that is. Can you tell everybody about that?
  • Yeah, so every Saturday, we’ve been putting together activity bags, really quickly we realized there is a lot of information out there in order to keep your child busy. But sometimes that information can feel a little overwhelming and you just need something concretely to do. And so what we’ve done is put together themed bags, ’cause that’s an easier way to wrap ourselves around it. So put together some theme bags each week. So this week we are creating bird bags where the kids will get an crafts to do at home with their parent-child activity and to make bird feeders with bird feed, explore some flight things, how to make a bird nest, go on a bird hunt, seed sort.
  • Ha, I love it.
  • How to use chopsticks to eat like a bird. We’ve done some play dough bags, we did flower-themed bags and art kits and literacy kits. We’re just changing it up each week to give families concrete–
  • Do people, you obviously have to sanitize everything before and after, that must be time consuming, but you’re–
  • So actually what we’ve done is, we’ve used our funding sources and I work in a secure environment with gloves and a mask to put together everything and everything is for families to keep.
  • Oh, great!
  • They pick up their bags, they take it home, and it’s theirs forever.
  • Perfect, and how are they, to partake in this? What should they do? Just email the Family Center, is that the best way?
  • Exactly so. The email below, [email protected] before Saturday, and each week, we roll out a new activity bag and we ask families to register each week. We’re trying to rotate around so that lots of families have an opportunity but welcome families to take bags as often as they feel needed as well.
  • Okay, great! And I am cleaning out some closets with my daughter’s things and I know, in the past, you have a little swap there or place for toys, I think, and clothing, and I’m wondering, is that open now, or you’re probably not receiving things?
  • We are not taking donations at the swap shop right now. I’ve asked people to kindly hold on to them because even though we are all at home, kids are growing and going to need new stuff and it is hard to get things, so as soon as we are open to accepting donations, I will make sure I put that on our website and on our Facebook page so that folks know. If folks are in need of things like clothing and some other household, childhood things, I have some that haven’t been donated from the beginning of March that are sitting there that I am able to hand to families. So I’ve given bibs and, you know, a brand new breast pump and things like that.
  • Great, okay. Of course, none of us have a crystal ball and everybody’s speculating on what things will be like over the summer and beyond that. Do you all have any plans, or you’re sort of just gonna keep things going the way they are for now?
  • So for right now, our plan is to continue to do this mix of virtual and concrete support, going out into the community or folks picking up from there through the end of June, which is the end of our fiscal year and then really to look to guidance from the governor, and from our local board of health to see how to move forward. Our hope is that maybe we get to move outside this summer and have some more parent-child activities in the community but it remains to be seen. But we’ll be hopeful.
  • That will be great. Is there anything else that you wanna add?
  • No, just that it is a resource I like to say that it’s, like I said before, it is for everyone, and that I know, sometimes it is difficult to ask for help. I’ve been in a position where, myself, having to ask for help, but that we all need help, and it is a resource here for everyone to take part in, whether it just be activity bags or coming to Zoom to participate and engage with other families.
  • Great, thank you so much for coming on. I have one last question. If you had one message of hope for people during this difficult time, what would that be?
  • I think that we’re better together, that I realize that there’s so many folks that are making our program be able to be better and serve the people in our community and that the more we band together to get through this and work together, the better we’ll be off at the end.
  • Great, I agree.
  • All right.
  • So thanks, Kim D’Arcy. Thanks for being on, and thanks for all the work you’re doing for the Family Center. It really is a huge help to so many people.
  • Thank you!
  • Thanks, have a good afternoon. Bye, everybody!
  • Bye!


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