By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Northborough – The entryway of one Northborough family’s home is frequently filled with an unusual array of items. But whether it’s filled with 350 pounds of potatoes or 100 backpacks, it’s always filled with compassion for the community. Liz Nolan, the founder of the altruistic playgroup Northborough Moms and Tots, has been cheerfully filling that entryway for the past eight years.
It started in 2006 when Nolan, her husband, Scott, and her then-toddler sons, Derick and Carter, moved to Northborough.
“I had been part of starting a similar group in New York – a way for families with kids to meet, network and support one another,” said Nolan, who is also chair of the Marguerite E. Peaslee Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). “I had looked for similar groups before our move but didn’t find what I was looking for so decided to recreate what we had in New York here.”
And what started as a resource for forming playgroups rapidly evolved. Several playgroups (with each mom hosting on a rotating basis) were formed. Then, moms’ social groups were created. They include a walking/running group, a book club and a Mom’s Night Out group. Members also share recommendations on everything from preschools to doctors. Nolan said the group, which doesn’t charge a membership fee, “really helps people feel connected. That is so important.”
But Nolan goes beyond connecting moms and tots with playgroups, resources, group discounts and activities. She gives members opportunities to volunteer. Besides helping Friends of Families in Transition, a Northborough group that assists homeless families living in motels, Nolan’s group also participates in the Northborough Helping Hands Thanksgiving basket food drive, donates coats, boots and Christmas gifts to children in need, and collects food for the Northborough Food Pantry.
One of the group’s biggest community service projects is its annual backpack drive that provides supply-filled backpacks to students. Nolan said the drive was suggested by one of the moms in the group.
“This past year was our seventh annual backpack drive, and we donated 100 backpacks to students in need who attend Northborough schools – grades K through 12. A few years ago we teamed up with Northborough Helping Hands for this effort, but Northborough Moms and Tots still is instrumental in fundraising efforts,” Nolan said. “The effort is a total community effort, and it is great to know that students have just about everything they need to start their school year on the right foot.”
Nolan, who also volunteers for the St. Rose of Lima religious education program, said she finds volunteering “rewarding on so many levels.”
“Since having kids and being home with them, I have had time to find causes that need help that interest me and are family-based,” Nolan said. “I also feel it is important to volunteer with your kids, so they realize that others need help, and everyone has a set of skills and talents that can help someone.”
Inspired by Northborough, Nolan hopes others will discover the same joy in volunteering.
“Sometimes people want to help but don’t know where to start. I hope that the efforts we do as a group or publicize for the group help people realize that giving of yourself, even a little bit, is a huge gift to yourself in the long run.”
For more information, visit www.northboroughmoms.com.