Truckee’s family connection: Providing year-round fun and support for local children and parents | SierraSun.com
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Truckee’s family connection: Providing year-round fun and support for local children and parents

SHERRY MAYS Sierra Sun

They are simple concepts – mothers meeting mothers and mothers helping other mothers through the development of each others’ children.

It was the commitment to these concepts back in 1996 that brought the Truckee Family Connection to fruition and today not only do mothers enjoy the support, so do fathers and families.

On Tuesday, the group’s founder Susie Simonpietri was recognized for her years of dedication as the guest of honor at a tea at Phyllis Watson’s Tahoe Donner home.

“This is such a good thing,” Simonpietri said. “It is all about building a good family unit and it is working here in Truckee.”

Simonpietri left the Bay Area in 1995 for a new life with her husband and her child. She left a playgroup behind in Novato and said she found she and her baby lonely without the interaction she enjoyed with other mothers and children.

“The first time I asked Truckee mothers about this they said it would never work,” she said. “After a few months, my husband told me to try again.”

She did.

She made new contacts and the second time around found other Truckee mothers with similar needs.

“I asked Ruth Hall if she knew of anyone interested in starting a playgroup, but no one had shown interest,” she said. “Then one day another mother came in and asked the same questions. They (Hall’s staff) took my name off the wall and gave it to the woman.”

That woman was Katy Stevens, a co-founder of the TFC.

They began the group with six board members: Simonpietri, Stevens, Eileen Riotto, Terri Rankin, Sherri Baker and Apryl Heckendorn. Today’s board enjoys 16 members and almost 40 families in membership.

“It’s wonderful including everyone in the family,” she said. “Even fathers get into the action and so many have commented on what a great program this is.”

Great, and busy. What began as a playgroup has mushroomed into a six- to seven-day-a-week social club for children and parents. And not only are parents getting involved in TFC, TFC is also getting involved with the community.

Past projects have included the MANA food drive and the holiday Adopt-A-Family outreach. The group found this past weekend’s Wild West Fest the perfect spot for its first fund-raiser – the Cake Walk.

“Our group is all geared for the family,” said Director Cheryl Richey. “Whatever we can do to help support and educate other families, is what we do.”

Support and education are the TFC’s main focus. Its monthly calendar is jam-packed with activities, monthly meetings and monthly speakers. Speakers include topics such as health, parenting, financial management and family.

The Truckee library has created a children’s book and video section solely from TFC donations and the Sierra Nevada Children’s Services has joined in partnership with TFC by helping to sponsor the group’s monthly speakers.

“The family connection really got a significant grassroots parenting group together,” Hall said. “They have done such a thorough and professional job.”

Hall said because the group has become a positive role model for children by showing them that it is important to give back to the community, she and the Tahoe-Truckee Child Abuse Prevention Council decided to help fund its endeavors.

“Agencies are always looking for programs to help sponsor,” Hall said. “To have a group of parents who have provided all of the resources and organization is great. They should be commended.”

Simonpietri said by being recognized by Hall and others is their reward.

“Now we can get speakers, who would not have just volunteered their time to the group,” Simonpietri said. “Ruth Hall and Sierra Nevada Children’s Services have great contacts and this will be such a boost in maintaining a level of professionalism with our speakers.”

Richey said speakers are an important part of educating families. Board member Cindy Maciel agreed.

“Having speakers at our meetings is only one facet,” Maciel said. “This group does wonderful things. I don’t know where I would be without them.”

Richey said helping mothers keep sane during the winter, when it is difficult to find outdoor activities for young children, is a common support feature. To help meet the needs of community mothers, the group offers a wide array of group activities: playgroups, group trips to ski and sledding areas, trolley rides, skating trips, family pizza nights, mom’s nights out and dad’s nights out and bowling outings. The list goes on.

“This is a learning experience for everyone,” Richey said. “We learn something new everyday and we hope to pass on that kind of support to community families.”

TFC meets on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Truckee Community Center on Church Street. Meetings are scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. and babysitting is available. For information, call Jennifer Spector at 582-1269.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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