The phrase, “thinking on your feet” took on an entirely new meaning when I became a mom. I had prepared for the logistics of parenthood—the supplies, the set-up, the daycare—but nearly every other experience felt messy and raw. I had once been the person with a five-year-plan—now I was scrambling to figure out the next-five-minutes plan.
As parents, we expect to face the unexpected. We know we will have mornings when our entire schedule gets wiped because a child is ill, or that we are always one call away from that stomach-sinking feeling that comes when our child’s school phone number shows up mid-day on our caller ID. We rely on quick thinking, a strong network and sometimes, just plain ol’ luck to get by and make things work. But nothing could prepare even us parents for the reality of last year, when the bedrock of our reality crumbled, when we were left without childcare, school, family, friends and the simple errands, activities and encounters that we had always taken for granted.
Last year, the Parent Resource Center (PRC) celebrated its 40th anniversary at the annual gala event. Just weeks later, New York state shutdown amidst the COVID-19 crisis. As an organization known for serving the community with live events, interactive classes and nights out for parents, the PRC was faced with an enormous task: how would it continue to serve the community when everyone was forced to stay apart?
The first thing the PRC did was what all parents had to do: prioritize the most pressing needs. For the PRC, this meant focusing on its amazing Outreach families, which included:
Organizing two drive-through events where families were given dinner and arts and crafts supplies
Holding four diaper drives that provided a total of four month’s worth of diapers and wipes
Working with the Community Chest, who generously donated bags of household items and gift cards to help families in need
In the Fall, the PRC continued to run its Stepping Stones classes, this time
outdoors, at the Sands Point Preserve. Thanks to their generosity, children had access to the Woodland Playground, hiking trails and large open areas for circle time and crafts. When temperatures dipped, the PRC ran a coat drive, enabling the donation of coats and other warm, seasonal clothing to every member of Outreach families’ households. The PRC even kept the magic of the holidays alive, with Santa himself delivering presents to Outreach children on a PWFD truck at the Sands Point Preserve. Now the PRC is holding its Stepping Stones class on Zoom, and providing children with weekly crafts kits.
Since the PRC was unable to safely use its indoor space at the Parent Resource Center, it made use of the Landmark lawn, holding outdoor music and movement classes for small children, exercise classes for parents and small special events. The PRC went virtual with its popular Mothers of Infants support group and Parents Night Out events.
Throughout it all, the PRC did what all parents do when faced with a challenge: it relied on its network—incredible community partners, a devoted staff and new executive director, a can-do board of directors and a stellar Outreach chair, Hope Pecullan, and Outreach team. Together they took one obstacle after the next and transformed them into opportunities for reinvention.
As we embark on a new year, the PRC is gearing up to have a full spring schedule outdoors. There are plans to start up another Mothers of Infants support group and a brand new support group for parents of children with special needs. Parents can get excited for an upcoming Parents Night Out sushi making event and a virtual book club meet-the-author event. Sign up for the PRC newsletter for the latest updates.
Yes, there will be obstacles ahead, and of course, we can expect plenty more opportunities for creative problem solving. Still, after the events of last year, the PRC is coming into 2021 strong.
After all, the PRC is built by and for parents. Thinking on our feet is what we do best.
Carly Rose Elson is a local Port Washington mom, PRC Board Member and two-time graduate of Mothers of Infants. She and her husband are expecting their third child in March.