By Kate Weldon LeBlanc
Wednesday morning was the annual Women's Breakfast, supporting the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support® (CERS) and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program. It was our most successful Women's Breakfast ever, with more than 350 people in attendance and raising more than $260,000. We are enormously grateful.
This year, we were joined at the Breakfast by filmmaker Josh Seftel and his mother, Pat, who shared their reflections about the importance – and joy – of staying connected via their sweet, entertaining FaceTime chats.
This was only my fourth breakfast (many people there have been attending for more than two decades!) but based on this relatively small sample, I have made some unscientific observations about things that are "always" true about our Women's Breakfast:
- The weather will be gorgeous. Not just a little bit nice but "nicest day of the week" gorgeous. It seems like even if clouds, cool temperatures, or rain are forecast, the morning of the Breakfast will be sunny and you'll walk in the door already with a spring in your step.
- The whirlwind of friendship, generosity, and energy will be palpable and contagious.
- It will be emotional but not sad. Many eyes fill with tears (mine ALWAYS do) because it is profound to bear witness to the impact that the support provided by CERS has made for a quarter century. I am also moved by my admiration and affection for all my colleagues, especially our CERS Director Peggy Kaufman.
Yesterday's event had all of the above and more. During the program, Peggy described her first conversation with our amazing Event Chair and Visiting Mom, Audrey Schuster. When Audrey asked about her goals for the Breakfast, Peggy explained she wanted it to increase awareness of Visiting Moms and CERS; to build a legacy and sustain our programs financially so we can continue to provide these vital services into the future; and to honor all the women who have served as Visiting Moms in the last 25 years. This Women's Breakfast fulfilled all of these wishes! We welcomed many attending for the first time, and I am confident they left with a wonderful sense of the JF&CS community.
One of the most inspiring moments for me was when Audrey asked all the women who had ever been Visiting Moms to stand and be recognized. They have such a strong bond to each other and have literally changed the lives of thousands of parents and babies. This was reflected in the powerful remarks shared, in person and on video, both by mothers who received visits by Visiting Moms and by mothers who are Visiting Moms. One mom said, "Having a little extra love come into your life when you need it most is what Visiting Moms is." It may sound simple enough but it is transformative. I'll never forget a mom using that lovely and uncommon word to describe CERS. I think it is perfect. As Audrey herself said beautifully, "What matters most is to be in the moment and present for each mom." The power of "just being with" other people is something we can all take away and bring into our own lives. What a legacy indeed!
Kate Weldon LeBlanc has been the associate director of CERS since August of 2009. Kate is passionate about child and family issues, particularly on building communities of support for parents. Prior to her arrival at JF&CS, she spent nearly ten years working in the departments of Child Advocacy and Government Relations at Children's Hospital Boston. She holds a BSW from Skidmore College and a MPA from UMass Boston.