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Season of Giving

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Mike Stanek (middle), of Eversource NH Vegetation Maintenance; and Jared Meyer (L) and Mike Snook (R) of John Brown & Sons

Tis the season. The season of celebrating family, friends, and home. The season of giving generously to those we love and to the community we care about.

We get to see this generosity up close and personal at The River Center. I had been out for a couple of days this week and when I came back into my office I found that it was Christmas Central. A large table had been set up in the corner of my office, covered with gifts from community members for local children and families. Our Chief Elf, Tina Kriebel, is once again coordinating people who want to give with families who need help. When other giving programs deadlines have come and gone, we still get calls from anxious parents wondering how to have presents under the tree. Tina collects their information and finds eager and generous folks who are willing to purchase gifts to fill specific needs and wants. It is a joy to watch this generosity in action.

Last week I received a visit from a special friend. Every year he comes in with a jar of coins. At least it looks like a jar of coins. He and I both know that he and his wife have some very large bills rolled up inside, making this a very valuable jar indeed. This couple asks that we use this jar to help a family with need. We have used it in many ways through the years. One year it went to a family for car repairs. Another year it paid for special lessons for a child needing something to call her own. How fun to be the conduit between our special anonymous donors and a family in need in our community.

We have many examples of this spirit of giving in action. Santa was kind enough to make a special visit to The River Center December 9 and bring joy to many children and their parents. Dr. Greg Kriebel volunteered his time and expertise to answer parents’ questions December 5. C & S Wholesale once again has supplied gifts for many families in our community. The Black Swan called with hand knitted scarves made by staff and customers to donate to families. Many individuals are part of Tina’s Christmas Angels who go shopping for gifts for strangers, knowing they are putting a smile on a parent’s face and bringing joy to their children.

And then we had representatives from Eversource who donated live Christmas trees, lights, and tree stands to our families. One mom started crying when she got her tree because she hadn’t had a real tree since she was a little girl and she had forgotten how wonderful balsam smells.

We are so grateful for the many individuals and businesses in our community that support The River Center through their volunteer time and financial gifts. As a nonprofit, we are dependent on the generosity of our donors and funders. Volunteers provide needed skills, enthusiasm and manpower to accomplish the many programs and services we offer. The upcoming free tax preparation program is a great example of skilled volunteers at work. If you are interested in volunteering at The River Center, please contact me (see below) or Tina Kriebel at rivercentervolunteers@gmail.com.

Thank you for caring for your neighbors through your many acts of kindness, your generosity, and the giving of yourself. I am so happy to be part of this community and grateful for you all.

Best wishes for a wonderful and happy holiday!

Valuable Lessons in Work and Life

Today we said good bye to our fall intern, Julia Irving, from Franklin Pierce University. We are grateful to have her as part of our team this fall and sad to see her go. In this column I have asked Julia to tell you about her experience at The River Center Family and Community Resource Center.

My name is Julia Irving. I am a senior at Franklin Pierce University majoring in psychology. Over the fall semester I interned at The River Center. Interning at The River Center was one of the best things that could have happened to me because it expanded my view on the world. It also introduced me to some truly amazing and caring people. My days are coming to an end interning for The River Center but I am truly blessed to have met these people and to have had the opportunity to experience so many different things.

One of the programs I worked with every week is the Farm-to-Table program. At this program we met at a local church kitchen and cooked fresh snacks or meals with the children and their parents. This program allowed me to work one on one with the children and really connect with some of them. One success story I can take with me is when a shy little girl at Farm-to-Table bonded with me almost right off the bat. This made me feel really confident in my position.

I worked with Wendy and Kelli for the Farm-to-Table program. These two women are incredible and have so much empathy for the families that come to Farm-to-Table. I have learned so much about being a more caring person from these two. Their constant reassurance and support has shaped me into a more empathetic and caring person.

Margaret has given me so many opportunities while interning here. I helped out with other programs like Family Fun Night and Tunes for Tots. I also went to several different places with Margaret: Boynton Middle School, Family Support New Hampshire annual meeting, Mascenic School District offices, the Jaffrey Rindge Rotary meeting, and more. I also got to sit in on a lot of meetings and meet new people. Being able to see Lynn Lyons speak about anxiety was a great opportunity for me. I can take her knowledge and apply it to my life as well as others.

No one treated me as just an intern, but their equal. This experience has given me a lot more insight into myself and has confirmed that I want to be able to help people like The River Center helps people. I will never forget my time here or the amazing people that I have met.

We wish you well Julia. You will do well wherever you go and whatever you do.

We at The River Center are thankful for so many things this Thanksgiving. Thankful for being part of this community, thankful for your financial and volunteer support of The River Center programs, thankful that you care about individuals and families in our community.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let’s Do Something About Anxiety

Let’s talk about anxiety….. Did you just turn the page?? Are you going to shut me down just like that? What?? I worry about these things. Honest. As I sit down to write this column each month, I worry about whether or not you will read this. Whether I have anything to say that you, the reader, will find interesting, relevant, helpful. Sometimes I start the column three or four times. Too boring. Who cares about this? I’m whining. Too much me. Not personal enough. I watch the deadline come and go. I am anxious.

Yes, anxiety affects all of us. The dictionary tells us that anxiety is ‘the state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties; worry; fear.’ We worry about what to wear on that special evening out. We are anxious about that upcoming meeting with the boss. Our anxiety level escalates when we get a phone call in the middle of the night.

Our kids experience anxiety too. I think we all have stories of anxious moments in our childhood. My brother told me that dragon flies would zip up my mouth if I said a bad word. For years (way too many, to be truthful) I had an unreasonable fear of dragon flies. I was incredibly anxious about my first visit to an eye doctor at the age of eight. I equated doctors with shots, and an eye doctor was obviously going to give me a shot in the eye. I was terrified. Of course, I didn’t share this thought with any adult.

Kids worry about the first day of school, what will the teacher be like? Will the kids laugh at me- because of my clothes, my shoes, my stutter, my glasses, etc? When children overhear mom and dad talking about the lack of money, they worry about money too. There is the fear of being separated from mom or dad that comes out when they are left in childcare. Anxiety touches every single one of us. It is part of the human experience.

The River Center is doing something to help us all manage anxiety in ourselves and in our children. We are hosting Lynn Lyons, LICSW, author and speaker, on Tuesday evening, October 24 at 6:30 at the Peterborough Town House. Lynn will speak on “How to Interrupt the Worry Cycle” based on her book co-authored with Reid Wilson, PhD entitled Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents. Lynn gives some practical ideas about how to help face anxiety straight on and remove the power it holds on us and our children. I am convinced that all of us will walk away from her presentation with practical ideas to keep the worry monster at bay in our lives.

The opposite of anxiety is: security, confidence, relief, assurance, serenity, contentment, calmness. Those are the words that I want to describe me. I want you and your children to be content and confident as well. Please join us on Tuesday, October 24 from 6:30-8:30 at the Peterborough Town House. You can register for this free event on www.rivercenter.us or calling us at 924-6800.

I am calm now. Another column is written. Hope it was helpful to you.

For more information on upcoming programs and services at The River Center Family and Community Resource Center, please go to www.rivercenter.us or give us a call at 924-6800.

Wellness Expands to All Areas of Our Lives

This past week The River Center has been part of two wellness events- one for employees of NHBB and then the Monadnock Rotary’s annual Wellness Festival. Businesses focused on fitness, nutrition, health insurance and physical health are all there.

It is curious that The River Center would be asked to be part of a wellness event. Or is it? What is wellness anyway? The dictionary defines wellness as the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal. Wellness is something you are intentional about. You make decisions to serve nutritious food to your family. You try to get outdoors and take a walk regularly. You quit smoking, use a seat belt. In short, you take care of yourself. Good health involves the whole person- mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional.

Here is an interesting factoid. Apparently the word wellness was almost never used until about 1970 and has gradually increased in use to 2017, where everyone uses the term wellness – almost on a daily basis. We take our kids for wellness checks instead of annual physicals. We join the Wellness Center instead of joining the gym. We monitor our wellness by checking our Fit Bit.

How does The River Center fit into your family’s wellness plan? If you are in daily conflict with your teen, your wellness as a person and as a family is at risk. Conflict produces stress. Stress over a prolonged period of time will bring on headaches, ulcers, and other physical distress not to mention emotional pain. Perhaps Bonnie Harris’ group for parents of teens and tweens could help with your wellness plan. Together with other parents you can learn strategies to ease stressful relationships and improve communication with your teen.

Feeding your family nutritious and affordable meals is another wellness focus. The Farm to Table program brings parents and their children together to harvest and prepare foods that everyone enjoys. Last week they made pesto but sadly, there were no leftovers. Sigh.

Money issues can ruin our sense of well-being. Figuring out how to stretch limited income to meet expenses can cause stress and worry. Sitting down with one of our money coaches just might lift the worry load off your shoulders. Getting the numbers down on paper helps. A money coach can help you identify where you can cut corners or how you can access financial assistance programs that can help you through tough times.

Our wellness program helped the woman who lost her job unexpectedly. She came to The River Center for help with her job search and cried for close to an hour. They talked about her skills and strengths and how to start her job search. She left with a glimmer of hope, a confidence boost, and the courage to take the next step in finding employment.

Now if it is physical exercise you are wanting, we can help you with that. Did you know that we have a wood bank at The River Center? Volunteers cut, split, stack and deliver firewood to homes in our community. Let us know if you would like to volunteer.

So, I submit that wellness is more than a physical fitness program. Wellness is more than a balanced diet. Wellness involves caring for yourself, your family and your community. Why don’t you check out how The River Center can help you with your wellness plan this fall? Contact us at www.rivercenter.us or 924-6800.

A Day in the Life of a Family Resource Center

Do you know someone who is a parent? Do you know someone who is looking for a job? Do you know someone who needs some kind of assistance? I am guessing the answer to all of these questions is yes. The River Center can help. As a family and community resource center, we act as a resource for individuals and families in our community.
Let’s look at a day in the life of our Center.

A typical morning might find Bonnie, Parent Educator, setting up for her Teens and Tweens parent group. She arrives early, gets the coffee pot on, makes copies of an article they will discuss, and prepares the Parent Room for her group. From 9:30-11:30 a group of parents of teens and preteens share successes and challenges, learn new techniques and strategies, and receive support from each other as well as from Bonnie. As they leave, I hear animated conversations between group members and dates being set for coffee.

Kelli, our home visitor, gives me a call. She wants me to know she will be helping a home visiting client and her family move tomorrow. They have just been accepted into Monandock Area Transitional Shelter and will have stable housing in which to regroup and plan for the future. She has been seeing this client for six months now, through the last months of the pregnancy and the birth. Mother and baby will now have their own place to call home at the Shelter.

The front desk is busy this morning. Several folks stopped in with questions. One lady said her neighbor told her to come here. She is a single mom with a teenage daughter. She heard about the Fuel Assistance program and she thinks she could qualify for food stamps. Sheila gives her information about SNAP (food stamps program) and shows her the Fuel Assistance office (located at The River Center). She also tells her about the parenting group for parents of teens.

A man wants to know about getting his resume done. Do we do that? Our Employment Specialist, Laura, sets up an appointment for the next day. He left his job a year ago so that he could focus on alcohol abuse recovery. He needs help putting together a new resume and wants to know how best to explain his unemployment period. Laura makes some changes to his resume, gives him suggestions about to approach his employment gap, and connects him with a local group that supports those in recovery.

At noon the parenting staff meets to discuss parenting programs for the coming months. Do we have something planned for working parents? How a program for dads? Can we bring the Parent Information Center in to do a presentation for parents on Individual Education Plans (IEPs) again this year?

The Money Coach volunteer shows up to meet with someone who has requested help in organizing her finances. This is the third time she is late with her rent. Our Money Coach will help her figure out her income and expenses.

Wendy, another Parent Educator, prepares for our Farm to Table program, that meets on Thursdays. This week they will be baking apple pies, with apples they picked last week. She needs to print out the recipe for families to take home with their bag of apples. I hope there are leftovers!

Karen, our bookkeeper, has a question about grant monies that we have received. What program was that grant helping to fund? We do our happy dance because this is a welcome check. I sit down to write a thank you to the foundation for generously supporting this work in our community.

The day ends with our monthly Tuesday Topics program. Tonight we have invited an occupational therapist and a speech therapist to talk about developmental stages in young children. We expect about 8-10 parents to join us for this presentation and discussion.

I go home knowing that it has been a worthwhile day. What we do at The River Center makes a positive difference in the lives of individuals and families in our community.

What do you do for work?

What do you do for work? This question is often asked at casual get-togethers when we are trying to get acquainted with someone we don’t know. This question can be fun to answer if you love your work. It can be awful if you: 1.) hate your job; 2.) don’t have a job; 3.) are embarrassed of your job; or 4.) are a stay at home mom or dad that feels apologetic for making that choice.

If you love your job, that is a wonderful thing. Doing work that uses your unique skills and motivates you to do your best is indeed the all American dream. If you are a stay at home mom or dad, do not apologize for making that choice. You have a very important job that will all too soon be done. Enjoy the moments!

Unfortunately, many people find themselves stuck in jobs they don’t like. They actually hate their jobs, but stay because the pay is good, they have health insurance, they don’t know what else they would do, or they don’t know how to begin the process of getting a different job.

Did you know that we have an Employment Resource Center at The River Center? Our Employment Specialist, Laura Sebert, is here to help in the job search. There are lots of reasons why you could benefit from meeting with Laura.

If the last time you looked for work was during the Bush Administration (either one), you need to meet with Laura. The job search process has changed considerably in the last few decades. She can get you caught up with the current methods for getting a job, spiff up your resume, show you how on-line job listings work, and give you hope.

You could also benefit from our Employment Resource Center if there are embarrassing blanks in your job history. Being fired, leaving without notice, addiction issues that impacted your quality of work, these can compromise your ability to find another job. How do you explain the loss of the last job? What do you say about your 6 weeks in recovery? Why did you walk off your job? Will you do it again? Laura will help you address the reality of your job history and your plan for getting it right this next time.

We can help you if you don’t know what kind of job you would like. There are many choices for employment. Do you want to be at a desk? At a machine? Creative? Methodical? With people? Alone? Computers? Outdoors? Intellectually challenging? Physically challenging? The choices can be overwhelming. Laura will help you think of your past successes and the kind of work and activities that energize you. Finding a job that fits you makes all the difference in the world.

You may be in a job you love but it just doesn’t pay enough to cover your family’s financial needs. You don’t want to leave your job, but you really need to find something that pays more. You wonder if you will ever find a job you like as much. Laura can help you explore your options. What other jobs are available that are similar to what you love to do? Do you really need to leave your current job? Would you be able to talk with your employer about increasing your hours or increasing your responsibility and your pay? It helps to talk with someone who can help you think creatively about your options.

Most everyone reading this column knows someone who is in the job market. Please tell them about our Employment Resource Center. It’s a free service for anyone in the community who is looking for work.