Mimi Santry, a Greenwich resident, was named Volunteer Square’s February Volunteer of the Month. Nominated by Jen Flatow, Senior Director of Development at Family Centers and a member of the Volunteer Square Advisory Board, Jen was thrilled to have the opportunity to honor the wonderful work Mimi does for Family Centers. She stated, “I have had the privilege of seeing many iterations of the Valentine’s Project over the past eleven years at Family Centers, but the thing that resonates with me recently is the commitment to the children we serve by Mimi. She is the driving force, sometimes literally transporting supplies and volunteers to and from our sites, in making this happen throughout the year. It’s not about decorating the pumpkin, planting the flowers or creating the cards. It’s about making the connection between volunteers and the children we serve. It’s about championing them to want to make a difference in the community they live in and to become role models. Mimi is one of a kind; we should all aspire to be like her.”
A mom of five, Mimi was connected with Family Centers through Greenwich Country Day School. She told me the relationship between GCDS and Family Centers goes way back to Julie Graham, a parent who noticed that not a lot of the young boys were doing volunteer work. An idea was formed to collect gently used books and have a group boys bring them to read to the students at the Family Center’s preschools. The event allowed each child to take home a book and a small Valentine’s sweet. The boys put on the Valentine’s Day event every year beginning in 7th grade until they graduated from GCDS in 9th. The project was passed along from Julie Graham to Lauren Kelley Driscoll and it came to Mimi in 2011, when her son Connor was in 7th grade. The first year she, Connor and his friends trained by doing the project in tandem with Lauren, her son Hill, and his volunteer group.
Connor’s group of volunteers enjoyed the Valentine’s Day project so much that they asked if they could add some additional visits to the preschools. They created a Mother’s or Special Friend’s Day celebration where they potted plants and let the children decorate the containers to take home as a surprise for their mother/special friend. In the Fall, the boys added a fun pumpkin decorating event for the children, supplying 70 pumpkins and decorating supplies.
When Mimi’s son Connor graduated from Greenwich Country Day, he passed the tradition on to his younger brother Dana, a 7th grader. Mimi and Dana continued the Valentine’s Day, Special Person’s Day and Pumpkin events. When Dana graduated Mimi had trouble finding a GCDS family to which to pass the baton. Her older son Connor was on the varsity ice hockey team at Greenwich HS so she reached out to Jen at Family Centers and suggested that the hockey team adopt the events. Jen agreed and the Varsity Ice Hockey players filled in as the newest batch of slightly larger volunteers. (Deleted sentence) She commented that it’s amusing to see big, burly hockey players on their knees working with the preschoolers. Visiting the pre-school is enjoyable for these athletes. They have so much fun connecting with the little ones. They laugh and joke and the kids go home with a project of which they are proud.
Mimi, Connor and his team members just completed the annual Valentine’s Day event at Gateway. This year Mimi went to the school the week before and took photos of all the kids, had them developed and the boys helped each student decorate a frame for their picture to take home. They are already planning for this year’s Special Person’s event in May and hope to continue the projects through at least next year when Connor graduates.
A busy mom of five, Mimi has many volunteer commitments. She serves as a class mom for her 3rd grader at Greenwich Country Day, is a class officer and active volunteer for Princeton University, has served as team mom for her son’s Bantam Team at the Greenwich Skating Club and has coordinated an effort to bring supplies and funding to Escuela el Cajuil, a school in the Dominican Republic.
When I talked with Mimi about being honored, she said she was willing only if the credit was shared with the other moms that worked so hard on the Gateway projects (Lauren, Kelley Driscoll, Jolie Johnson, Mika Frechette, Cary Keigher, Barbara Kugler among others) and of course the boys. On average 8-10 boys participate in each event. She told me that she feels that volunteering is so important, especially for young people. “Volunteering is linked to appreciation and happiness. There are so many underused resources, I encourage my kids to find something impactful to do for their community. So many young people can find both training and meaning with volunteer work, the benefit is just as much for the volunteer as it is for the agency they are working with.”
Born in San Francisco, Mimi attended Princeton University and worked in investment banking and money management in NYC and Charlotte before finally settling in Greenwich with her husband and children. She’s made a remarkable impact on her community over the years, but she’s not in it for the credit. She said the credit goes to the teachers and asked that we include a SHOUT OUT to all the remarkable staff at Gateway and Family Centers. “They are the people who do the daily hard work with these kids and give them a chance to succeed.“
On behalf of Volunteer Square, Family Centers, and our communities, we want to thank Mimi and her incredible team of volunteers for working hard to build a better community. Congratulations, it’s a well-deserved honor for all of you!
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