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Love, Joy & Peace

It is looking festive here at The River Center. Tis the Season. The snow is on the ground, the carols are playing in the stores and on the radio, the festive lights are in the windows.

We turn our thoughts to celebrating the holidays and spending time with our families.
The problem with this idyllic picture is that many times the very people we hold so dear; the love, joy and peace we seek, eludes us. We become our own worst enemies, hustling and bustling with an intensity that makes all those around us run and hide.

Early in my parenting years a friend told me about her own mother and the perfectionistic holidays she attempted to create each year. She baked and cleaned, decorated and caroled. She crafted gifts for everyone. Wrapped each present with the perfect little bow and tag. Every moment was spent in preparing for the ultimate holiday experience. The only problem was that her children dreaded December. Mom turned into a wild woman. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t jolly. My wise friend determined that she would keep things simple and fun. That she would make her loved ones the priority, not the trappings. I keep coming back to this wisdom.

So, how can we keep it simple and fun? How can we shake the traditions that may be slowly strangling our joy? I am not an expert, but here are some ideas:
Build in time for reflection. I have a memory of lying on the coach in my family’s living room with only the light from the tree. Carols are playing in the background. I am on vacation from school so there is no homework, no piano lessons, nothing I have to do. My family is nearby. I am at peace.

Take time to pause and use our senses.  Smell the balsam, hear the music, feel the crisp air, taste the peppermint, see the twinkling lights.  This is a season of the senses. Your children will remember the smells and tastes of the holidays long into their adulthood.
Be bold and try something new. I know, in the season where tradition abounds, it may be hard to think of doing something different. Remember that every tradition had to start off as a new thing sometime. Maybe it is a new recipe or maybe you go to an event you’ve never been to before. Dave and I went to Kennebunkport this year for the first time to see the Atlas fireworks display. It was a wonderful evening wandering from shop to shop, watching the tree lighting and then the fireworks.

Go ahead and light those candles. I love to put candles all around the house in December. A good Yankee would be sure to put those candles away at the end of the season to be used again next year. I am unashamedly admitting that I light all those candles! Christmas Eve is my favorite time to light them. Or when I have a party. Or on the winter solstice. Anytime really is a good time to light the candles and enjoy the beauty of candlelight. So, go ahead and light the candles. You can always get more for next year.

Some of you are worried about wrapping presents. If you enjoy making them beautiful, then go for it. Turn on some music, get out all the wrapping supplies, surround yourself with beauty and enjoy the process. If this stresses you out, buy some gift bags (or reuse them from last year). Place the gift in the bag, stuff some tissue paper on top, write out the tag and you are done. Keep it simple and fun.

Watch a classic movie, make some popcorn, turn on the twinkle lights. Whatever your celebration, whatever your traditions or your new ideas, love those you are with, keep it simple and enjoy.

Love, Joy, and Peace to you and yours.
Margaret

What Keeps You Up at Night?

What keeps you up at night? Do you have problems that circle through your brain and you can’t seem to figure out how to deal with them? Many times these issues and concerns involve family, work, or finances. I have good news for you!

This fall The River Center has a terrific line up of workshops, evening topics, coaching, and groups to help you in all those areas.

Has your sweet little girl turned into a moody adolescent? Has the transition from preschool to elementary school caused your child to become anxious? Are you wondering how to get out of the house in the morning with your infant and toddler? Do you worry about too much access to technology? Not enough technology? Too many activities or too few activities? Will they succeed in life? Are you pushing too hard? YIKES!

You have probably noticed that every child, parent, and family unit is unique. What worked with your oldest is not working with the middle child. The approach you take with your introverted, calm child is definitely not effective with your bold, active child. Mothers and fathers relate to their children differently. What works for the neighbor’s kids is not working for yours. How is anybody supposed to figure out this thing called Parenting successfully??!!

Well, I do indeed have good news for you. The River Center is a Family and Community Resource Center. Let me emphasize Family Resource. We have parent educators to help you navigate parenting. This fall you can learn more about helpful parenting topics and receive support in your journey. You can join Bonnie Harris’s group for parents of Tweens and Teens.  Wendy Hill will be leading a group discussing ‘Is This Normal Behavior?’ for parents of young children. Shannon McNamara will lead the ten week Effective Parenting Workshop. Kelli Tourgee continues the Friday morning parenting group at the United Church of Jaffrey. Wendy and Kelli run the Farm to Table program for parents and children through the fall harvest. For special topics, join Ryan Montano monthly for Tuesday Topics beginning September 20 with ‘Navigating your Child’s IEP/504 with an expert from the Parent Information Center.  Each month we will explore a different topic relevant to parents.  Monday mornings your preschoolers can join Nisa Simila for Tinker Tots with a STEM focus while parents have coffee and make friends in our new Parent Room.  There is even a group for Grandparents who are parenting their grandchildren. This group is run in collaboration with and meets at The Grapevine monthly.

So you see, there is hope. Good information, techniques, support from peers as well as input from knowledgeable parent educators- all add up to renewed hope, encouragement, and success in parenting. For more information on any of these parenting groups, please call us at 924-6800 or visit our www.rivercenter.us  for the complete fall calendar.

If work, or lack of it, is your concern, know that we have an Employment Resource Center for those in the job search. Do you need a resume? Help with on-line job applications? Direction for your next steps? Laura Sebert can help you. She is available for individual appointments. You can join her at the Job Seekers Meet-Up on Tuesdays at noon, an opportunity to ask questions, gain new ideas and energy for the job search.  Every other Tuesdays at 1:00 an open time for on-line job application assistance is available. Job hunting is hard work and can be discouraging. Don’t go it alone. Give Laura a call at 924-6800 or lsebert@rivercenter.us.

Well, if the thing that keeps you up at night is money issues, you have come to the right place. Many of you know already about the free tax preparation program we run in the spring. But did you know you can meet with a volunteer money coach anytime during the year? They are trained to help you make sense of your finances. Is it credit card debt? Disorganized bill paying methods? Overspending?  They can help you. Contact us at 924-6800 or info@rivercenter.us and we will set up an appointment for you.
If you are wondering where we are located, let me encourage you to join us for our Open House on Wednesday, August 24 from 5:00-7:00 at our new location at 9 Vose Farm Rd., Suite 115 in Peterborough (across from Conval and EMS).  All are welcome.

I think I have a plan to solve your sleepless nights. Join us at The River Center this fall. Sweet dreams.

It’s Moving Day!

Today is moving day for The River Center. Boxes, piles of stuff and to do lists are everywhere. We are heading 2.6 miles down the road to 9 Vose Farm Rd., Suite 115, and we are excited!

May 31 we finalized the sale of our buildings to All Saints Church, our neighbors. We are leaving the building management business gladly. All Saints will gain expanded parking and ministry opportunities. We have a win, win situation.

But don’t worry, we aren’t going away. We will bring the community the same services in a new location. We bring with us Southern New Hampshire Services Fuel Assistance office, a sharing of space that has worked so well for over a decade. You will continue to find the advocate from Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention in our office on Mondays and the case manager from Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter with us on Tuesdays. Monadnock Peer Support will maintain their weekly meetings on Friday mornings at 11:00 in our new space.

Of course all the programs of The River Center will continue in and through our new location. The Employment Specialist meets with individuals needing assistance in the job search. Volunteers offer individual money coaching by appointment. The Farm to Table program for parents and children meets every Thursday throughout the summer and fall at various locations. The Jaffrey Parenting group meets every Friday morning at the United Church of Jaffrey. A new line up of parenting groups will be offered in the fall. Our home visitor is busy connecting with mothers and their babies in their homes. We are here to help you connect with services throughout the Eastern Monadnock Region by calling 924-6800 or visiting us at Suite 115, 9 Vose Farm Rd.  The Wood Bank will move to the Peterborough Town Garage, still providing wood to households by referrals from the Fuel Assistance programs.

We are excited, exhausted, and optimistic about our future. We have changed our address but our mission remains the same. We are here to strengthen the families and individuals of our community.

I gotta go pack. Come see us at 9 Vose Farm Rd., Suite 115. I’d love to show you are new home!

Spring Cleaning

My parents had a giant barn with a huge hayloft– and no farm animals.  The space was enormous- big, cavernous, lovely storage space.  My grandparents built the house and barn in 1914, my parents moved in 1948. No one ever threw anything out. This is problematic when you are the third generation of savers.

In the hayloft one would find a rodent-chewed side saddle from the early 1900’s, a  broken electric mixer from the 1950’s, a cherry tree stump, a homemade portable outhouse from a Girl Scout camping trip in the 1960’s. It was a treasure trove. If you dug around long enough you were sure to find something interesting.

But there is a downside to several lifetimes of saving habits. My husband and I moved out of our apartment in Maine and moved to a cabin in the woods in New Hampshire. We needed somewhere to store most of our household stuff. Of course, my parents had plenty of room in the barn hayloft. We filled a medium sized U-Haul truck and drove it straight to my parents’ home. There I discovered that all available floor space was piled high with empty cardboard boxes! These were saved for ‘just in case’. There were boxes in every possible size and shape. We found ourselves in the absurd position of having to move empty boxes in order to store our household goods. Suffice it to say that today I am not a big fan of storing boxes.

The River Center will be moving to 9 Vose Farm Rd. in Peterborough next week. We are consolidating ourselves from two buildings on Concord St., into an efficient, beautiful office space. This makes us think about what we use, what we need, and what is important.  We must be intentional.  Books, files, office supplies, all are looked at with a critical eye. We need to be thoughtful about what we take with us. Do we need to take three boxes of envelopes with another organization’s logo on them? How about the tub of dried up plaster of paris from long ago craft projects? A full dumpster is a beautiful thing.

Reviewing what we have accumulated, assessing what we need going forward and deciding what we can get rid of is a healthy process. We do this in our lives and our businesses and organizations. 

The River Center Board is developing a new strategic plan that will provide guidance for the next three years. We are assessing what we have, what we need going forward and clutter we need to remove. We are solidly keeping our mission to serve the Eastern Monadnock Region by providing community connections, parenting support, job search skills, tax and money coaching. We are excited to move to a new space that will enhance that mission goal. We will miss our home at 46 Concord, but will gladly leave building maintenance worries to our new landlord.

The Dollars Are In The Bank… And For That, I Have You To Thank

taxes

Tax time! Wait…. Did I just see you cringe and start to turn the page??!!! Stop! I want to tell you fun and uplifting stories about tax season because that is what I see every year during The River Center’s free tax preparation season.

Last year a single dad in recovery heard about the free tax preparation available at The River Center. He asked if he could get help with tax returns from past years. The answer was yes. He came in very nervous, fearing that he would owe a lot of money in penalties and overdue taxes. He walked away with a return large enough to buy a car. That car has opened up a world of possibilities for him. He is seeing his children regularly now, he has his own place, he has stable work. The tax refund has made all the difference in the world for him and his family.

How about the international students from Franklin Pierce University who came last year to have their taxes done? They too need to complete a tax return due to their work study jobs at FPU. Can you imagine trying to complete tax returns in another country?! When Larry received the request last year he was willing and able to give it a go. He and his volunteers completed returns for 9 students from Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and Africa. This year FPU is bringing more international students to have their taxes done.
Some of the tax returns are more complicated than others. Larry tells me about taking one particular return home to figure out how to lower the amount due. The couple would owe $2500. They insisted they could not claim children. In the end, they could claim one child, not as a dependent, but for earned income credit. They owed $150 instead of $2500.  Happy result.

The tax volunteers are real champions. Each year over two dozen volunteers rally under the leadership of Larry Schwartz to make the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program happen at The River Center. A dozen volunteers are trained as preparers, passing three levels of IRS testing to become certified tax preparers. Larry is the quality reviewer, checking each completed return before they are submitted. Another dozen volunteers greet clients as they arrive. Last year the tax program at The River Center completed 730 returns bringing back 1.1 million dollars in refunds to individuals and families in this region. Thank you to all who do this wonderful service!

Let me tell you a little about Larry. He has been heading up the free tax program since 2007 at The River Center. Over that time span, hundreds of individuals have benefitted from having their taxes and literally millions of dollars have come back in tax refunds and credits. Larry loves to figure things out- the tougher the problem the more he likes it. Larry loves helping people get all the money they have coming to them.  He tells me, “I get the most joy from helping single moms who are struggling so that they can provide for their children.”  I see the smile when he has figured out a particularly tough tax problem. He is a man who genuinely loves doing tax returns. He makes himself available so that The River Center is one of two IRS approved sites in New Hampshire for year-round free tax assistance. Last year Larry was awarded Man of Year by the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. He is well deserving of that honor. Thank you Larry!

There are some fun ways that clients have thanked our tax volunteers. An older lady had her taxes done for her. She received a small refund. She was so pleased. She wondered if she could send the IRS a thank you. Another grateful recipient of the tax program favored the tax volunteers that evening with a spontaneous mini-concert. There are tears of joy. One client was so happy upon hearing that she had a $1500 refund she started running up and down the hall screaming.  Fancy donuts appeared for all the volunteers. Larry has had a homemade sub delivered as a thank you. Someone brought him a bouquet of flowers. Another brought champagne. Often he receives thank you notes. This note came recently with a poem: “Hi Larry, The dollars are in the bank. And for that I have you to thank.”

We have one month left before the April 15 deadline for submitting tax returns. This program for low and moderate income households is a resource. If you or someone you know would benefit, please call 924-6800 and set up an appointment.

Before I close I want you to know a couple of things. Yes, The River Center’s buildings are up for sale. Our address will change but our mission is staying the same. When we have our new location determined I will let you know.

I also want you to save the date for our Annual Community Spelling Bee on April 29 at the Peterborough Players. Come and watch, form a team of spellers, sponsor the event.
Fun for all!

On Parenthood

Are you a parent? Do you know someone who is a parent? Of course, we all know folks who are parents or are parents ourselves. It is after all, how the human race continues to populate the earth.

If I were to ask you if every parent parents perfectly, what would your answer be? I’ll go out on a limb and predict that you would quickly answer of course not! Parenting is difficult and challenging and none of us do it perfectly. We have our good days and our bad days as do our children. And just when we think we have it figured out they transition into a new developmental stage which brings a whole new array of joys and challenges. We ask ourselves continually- what do I do now? I just figured out the last stage. They were sleeping through the night and now they are waking up three times a night crying uncontrollably. What do I do?

Parenting books and blogs can be helpful. They can also be confusing because every child is different. Your mother-in-law’s advice can be helpful and also hurtful. Teachers offer insight, but see your children during the day, not at night when everyone is exhausted and frustrated. Advice offered you by random strangers in the grocery store are almost never productive. It is not unusual to want to cry out, “Help, I’m a parent. What do I do now?”

Parents come in all sizes, shapes and styles. Some drive fancy cars, some walk. Some are men, some are women. Some have large families, some have small. Some have college degrees, some don’t. Some live in houses, some live in shelters.  Some have children with special needs, some don’t. All have children. All need support. The River Center is a family and community resource center. We support families through our parenting groups and classes, focus groups, home visiting program, play group, and individual meetings. The only requirement to join a parenting group at The River Center is to have children. Nothing else. If you do have children, support is here. Our groups offer a safe, welcoming atmosphere. Our Children’s Enrichment program offers a fun and safe environment for the children while parents meet with our experienced parent educators. Group discussions will address real issues parents are facing at the moment such as teens and technology, getting everyone out the door in the morning, toilet training, bullying, homework, holidays. Parents also learn about developmental stages, discipline, communication, the importance of play and unstructured time, etc.

We have groups that meet at various times during the week at 46 Concord St. in Peterborough. We also have a group meeting at the United Church in Jaffrey in collaboration with Shelter from the Storm and led by Kelli Tourgee. A focus group for mothers of teen daughters meets at Conval High School. A five week prevention class with Carol Lunan will be offered at South Meadow School this spring. Tuesday morning parents of tweens and teens meet with Bonnie Harris. A new group has just started on Thursday mornings focusing on building your child’s self-esteem with Wendy Hill. You are welcome to join any of these groups.

Tina Kriebel has this to say about being part of a parenting group; “I am so grateful for the Parenting Programs at The River Center.  I really feel like it has been an investment in my family.  It is a couple of hours a week where I really focus on how I want my family to be and how I want them to treat each other.  None of us is perfect, but it’s the process that we use to grow and better connect with our kids – and our spouses.  When my dad passed away eight years ago, it was a safe place to share the struggles I was having with parenting.  As my children have grown, I have moved from topics on sharing and sleep issues to how to move into the new role of counselor with my middle school boys.  These classes have made a world of difference in my own growth.”

Another parent relates her experience: “My son had behavioral issues when he was young. I was quite overwhelmed and even afraid to get pregnant again. He was diagnosed with ADHD & Sensory Processing Disorder when he was 5, which gave me some explanation but didn’t help with dealing with all of it and school and the school bus. A lot of people didn’t get him (teachers, bus drivers, family, other parents, etc.) He was that kid that adults justified being mean to because he was annoying. Bonnie taught me how to listen to him and what his behaviors were telling me, and it was eye opening. It was the first time in my life I didn’t look at my son as being a problem but having a problem. I started reacting differently, and he responded. He wasn’t the “bad kid”. I learned to explain to others what he was doing, why he was behaving certain ways, how he perceived other children and their intentions, why he reacted the way he did (sensory), and how to handle him without making him feel horrible about himself. His recent report card indicated above average conduct in every class.” 

My father once told me that raising his children was the most important job he ever did. He was right. Don’t you want to have every tool available to you to do it the best you can? The River Center is here to support you and your family. To help you do this very important job to the best of your ability. Our children are the future of this community. Let us help you.

To find out more, contact us at info@rivercenter.us or call  924-6800.