GREENWICH, Conn. -- As the mother of five children, teachable moments abound for Greenwich’s Mimi Santry. Among the most impactful lessons Santry demonstrates is the passion for giving back and volunteerism, and she has helped her children do the same.
Santry, the recently named Volunteer of the Month by Norwalk-based Volunteer Square, has supported a number of organizations. She helped her sons gets involved with Gateway Preschool, which is associated with Family Centers of Greenwich.
- Who : Mimi Santry, Greenwich
- What : Volunteer Square's Volunteer of the Month
- Why : She supports many causes, including a reading program by teenage boys at Gateway Preschool
- Learn more: On the Volunteer Square website
About five years ago, Santry inherited a program organized by Lauren Driscoll which recruited boys at Greenwich Country Day School to read to the children at Gateway. She started in 2011 with her son Connor, and a group of his classmates from Greenwich Country Day.
“It was a once a year event and the boys would collect, wrap and give the 65 pre-school kids gently-used books and candy. The best part was always when the boys would read to the kids, the little kids would not want the boys to leave.’’ Santry said.
She continued with her younger son, Dana, and was ready to move on to other programs when Dana moved on to Brunswick. But she found no one was ready to take over the program. She encouraged Connor, Dana and Connor’s teammates on the Greenwich High School hockey team to pick up the mantle.
“I was a little hesitant,’’ Santry said. “I asked Jennifer Flatow at Family Centers if they cared if the volunteers were a bunch of big, burly hockey players. I wasn’t sure if the boys would be into it or if the little kids would be intimidated by older boys, but it was fantastic. The biggest guys were typically the sweetest. It was a terrific sight, seeing these big hockey players interacting with these little happy kids.”
This year, the hockey players visited Gateway in October and brought crates of pumpkins and stickers and helped the children decorate. For Valentine's Day, the volunteers made photo frames with the children and gave each child a stuffed animal to bring home for Valentine’s Day. In May, they will host a "Special Friends" card making event which allows the kids to make homemade cards and bring home a potted plant.
It might seem like small things, but Santry said the preschool children and the older boys enjoyed the entire experience. Besides bringing young men into the volunteer equation -- which is increasingly difficult in this day and age -- Santry also helped them learn the joy of giving back to the community in which they live.
“Some people who volunteer are raising huge amounts of money and donating a lot of time and energy to worthwhile causes,’’ Santry said. “That’s great, but with my crazy schedule right now, I am happy to get the chance to help brighten the day for some kids who perhaps have fewer advantages. I hope this may open the eyes of some young men who may decide working with children is something they really enjoy. I feel like my impact is small, but with five children, it’s the right bandwidth for what I feel I can do right now.”
Santry’s children range in age from 9 to 19 and includes four boys and one girl. She serves as a class mother for her third-grader at Greenwich Country Day, has served as the team mom for her son’s hockey team at Greenwich Skating Club, and coordinated an effort to bring supplies and funding to a school in the Dominican Republic. Some other volunteer capacities in which she has worked are collecting coats for Bridgeport Rescue Mission and serving as a class officer for Princeton Class of 1985.
A California native, she entered the business world after graduating from Princeton University. Now she’s a full-time mother, but committed to volunteering -- and developing the interest in volunteerism for her children and other young adults.
“The rewards are intangible as a volunteer,’’ Santry said. “When you’re employed, you get a review and a paycheck. The rewards as a mother and volunteer are self-given. It's nice to feel like you can add a little value to your children and community."
For more information about volunteer opportunities at Volunteer Square, click here to visit its website.