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What kind of person comes to work at The Family Place? All kinds! To work at The Family Place you need motivation, compassion, a sense of humor, a sense of social responsibility, an eagerness to learn, and a willingness to be part of a large, caring team. Here are a few profiles of the amazing people that make The Family Place the Upper Valley’s comprehensive resource for parents and children.
Even when Kelly French was working toward her BS in Nursing at Colby-Sawyer College, her focus was on children. “Everything I did – classes, internships – I did with kids in mind,” she says.
This dual passion for nursing and children served her well when she began to work at The Family Place in 2006. “I knew that as a Developmental Educator I could build on the nursing skills I had and still feed that passion,” she says. “People at The Family Place saw my nursing education as an asset.”
Once Kelly earned her nursing license, she added occasional per diem work at Interim Healthcare and Franklin Regional Hospital in Franklin, NH. to her schedule to gain more experience and keep her skills current. Meanwhile, The Family Place was working on introducing a nursing component into the Children’s Integrated Services program, which offers home visits to families with young children to ensure a healthy start in early years. In the spring of 2012, Kelly filled the new role of The Family Place nurse and has since been providing information and practical guidance to prenatal and postpartum mothers, infants, and young children.
“I like seeing the change in mothers, especially in terms of their parenting,” says Kelly when asked about what she likes about her job. “I love to see the kids grow and develop, and find new confidence in parents. Our clients don’t often say ‘Thank you,’ but I can see the effect we have on them in subtle ways.”
Kelly also appreciates the flexibility she finds at The Family Place. If her daughter is sick, or Kelly’s childcare is disrupted, she knows that the people she works with will say family comes first. “It feels like family here,” she says.
Watching Child Care Teacher Ashley Haskell interact with a roomful of infants and toddlers is a lesson in patience, consistency and joy. Ashley shows obvious love for her charges, and it’s surprising to hear that she didn’t always want to work with young kids.
“I started as a psych major – but almost everyone starts as a psych major!” Ashley laughs. She soon switched her major at the University of Maine to Elementary Education after working at a child care center and thinking hard about life after college. “What kind of job are you going to apply for as a psych major? With an elementary ed degree, I knew I’d have more options.”
Since earning that degree, Ashley has worked in a few different preschools and child care centers. What she loves best about The Family Place Child Care Center – which also serves as a learning lab for the young parents in the Families Learning Together program – is the connection she has with the entire family. “I have so much interaction with the moms, and that helps create a full picture,” she says. “It really makes you focus on the kids, and that’s who we’re all here for: the kids.”
Ashley is at the beginning of another climb in her career; building on her degree in education and her experience with children, she’s decided to study nutrition. “I love working with kids, and I thought a lot about studying autism, or childhood development. But I’m really interested in nutrition.” While she expects her next degree will take a while to accomplish, she’s excited because she loves being in the classroom. “I think that’s why I have a job where I spend so much time with kiddos!” she laughs. “Because I love to keep learning.”
During the winter of 2012, students from Professor Helen Damon-Moore’s Dartmouth class – titled “Gender, Activism, and the Common Good” – conducted a series of interviews of several TFP staff members. These interviews inspired participants on both sides of the table. Staff members came away with a renewed realization of their own motivation, and the students discovered what deep commitment to a worthy cause can look like.
When Christopher Ashley retired from his position as Principal at White River School last year, he knew he needed to “do something” to continue engaging individuals in positive life changes. In his role at the school, he focused on student progress one child at a time; now, in his position as a Family Educator, he approaches each family as a unique case, encouraging them to set goals and improve. Through his work in the Upper Valley over the past 36 years, he has remained focused on this ultimate goal to “help others reach their potential” while also developing a greater understanding of humanity. In his new role at The Family Place works to prevent the cycle of poverty from repeating itself across generations, and he sees his task as supporting the parents through a range of interpersonal issues. As he said, “In this small community we haven’t lost the ability for individuals to make a difference;” if you want to be effective at making positive change, “you have to stick around long enough.”
Coordinator, Families Learning Together Program
Hailing from Quebec, Canada, Helene Meloche has been a staff member at the Family Place for six years. She serves primarily as the coordinator for the center’s intensive Families Learning Together Program (FLT) and a case manager for the Reach Up—a Vermont-based welfare-to-work program. Having worked for years both as a director of a non-profit, child care center and a practitioner of naturopathic medicine, Helene now oversees case managers and organizes the schedule for FLT, coordinates with speakers and community partners, secures grants, and manages recruitment of clients from the Upper Valley. She feels lucky to work in the supportive and compassionate environment of The Family Place and enjoys celebrating the “baby steps” that occur on the way to larger social change. Helene is also a licensed doula and often supports young mothers during childbirth.
Child Care Director
Audrey Perry is the Child Care Director at the Family Place. Not only does Audrey have an education background in child development, she also has a son, which gives her first-hand experience with child care. These aspects of her life help guide her work on a daily basis. Her warm personality and depth of understanding make Audrey a wonderful person from whom to learn. Her passion for helping children to develop at young ages both in the child care center and at home is clearly evident as she describes working at The Family Place as a way in which she can make meaningful impact on the lives of many families in the Upper Valley. It is with no doubt that Audrey contributes to the mission of The Family Place whole-heartedly and sincerely.
319 US Rte 5 South
Norwich, Vermont 05055
52 Olcott Drive
Norwich, Vermont 05055
*Playgroups meet at the Olcott House