Family Centers, a Lower Fairfield County non-profit providing a range of services from education and childcare for children as young as 6-weeks-0ld, to programs for seniors, has a thriving internship program.
Take Caterina Ceci, Jael Montenegro, and Samantha Duncan, the inaugural group of interns at Family Centers’ Warburg Early Childhood Center. These three Greenwich High School seniors are among the staggering 2,800 volunteers who lend their time to the Family Centers’ programs.
Though the three girls’ internships will terminate on June 16, on Monday they smiled when recounting their time at Warburg. From soothing fresh 6-week-old babies to toppling toy blocks with 2-year-olds to serving lunch family-style, these baby whisperers have also dedicated time to creating door decorations for Warburg’s various classrooms.
“We use Pinterest to inspire our decorations,” said Duncan, adding that the children love looking at the final products.
The teens, who spend 30 hours per week at Warburg, unanimously agree on their reason for choosing Family Centers.
“We just like working with the kids. The little things they do are so funny,” said Montenegro. Her internship has been so successful that Family Centers has offered her employment, which she plans to balance with her studies at Pennsylvania State University this fall.
With robust involvement from students looking to lock down formal community service hours for high school or college, religious education, or the National Honor Society, Family Centers allows volunteers as young as 15 to bank their summer volunteering hours.
“We try to get as many volunteers on board as we can over the summer and put in as many hours as they want to do. It’s been really lucrative for us because it keeps volunteers coming back,” said Jennifer Flatow, the Director of Community Engagement, who has worked for Family Centers for nearly a decade.
Boasting summer interns from Greenwich High School, Darien High School, Rye Country Day School, and New Canaan High School, Family Centers also maintains relationships with local independent schools, such as Greenwich Academy, Brunswick School, and Greenwich Country Day School.
“The volunteers’ and the interns’ interactions with children in the classroom are different from those of someone steeped in education for the past 20 years. The children here really begin to get a sense of what service is when they see these students come in every week to volunteer,” said Flatow.
Open year-round to accommodate working parents’ schedules, Family Centers’ 14 different locations are scattered throughout Greenwich, Stamford, and Darien. Hours at any site are flexible; all volunteers plan their work schedules on a weekly basis, though Flatow strongly recommends volunteering at least one hour per week as the baseline for a rewarding and meaningful experience.
Next year’s status as the 125th anniversary of Family Centers will not have come easily, as obstacles—such as a recent surprise $40,000 retroactive budget cut—have naturally arisen.
Nevertheless, Family Centers is proud to offer open enrollment to any family in need of childcare in Greenwich and surrounding areas. There are still openings available for fall. Fees are also sliding, as tuition is derived from family income.
“We’re a unique organization because we have funding from multiple streams. We get state funding, federal money, private money from private foundations and donors, and we do special events,” said Flatow.
As a result of its expansive fund revenues, Family Centers has given an astonishing $1,000,000 in scholarship money this past year alone. Needless to say, success stories such as that of Jael Montenegro—from intern to employee—echo the value of service at Family Centers.
There is more information on Family Centers’ volunteer opportunities online.