Volunteer Spotlight: Gay Toomy and Billye Auclair
Gay Toomy and Billye Auclair are two volunteers with MSPCC’s Encompass: Community and Collaboration for Foster Parents, a pilot program for foster families in Central Massachusetts. Gay and Billye work together supporting one family, providing a range of services like meal delivery and regular tutoring for “three little busy boys.”
Gay Toomy brings over 30 years of experience as a teacher, literacy coach, and member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary organization for women educators, to her work with the three young boys, ages six through eight. She loves to interact with kids, getting to know them and finding a balance between meeting their needs and having fun. In August, she began sending a weekly box of supplies to assist in Zoom tutoring. She loves to supplement her lessons with books and crafts. In a recent science session about amphibians, Gay sent the boys a frog book and a frog puzzle they could work on while they learned. Although tutoring via Zoom is a challenge, it’s a challenge Gay finds fun. “I was a little nervous, but I figured if my friends and colleagues were teaching 27 kids on a zoom screen, I could handle three.”
Billye Auclair was looking for ways to give back after retiring from thirty years in higher education. She enjoyed working with youth, spent time in the Big Sister Little Sister program, and was involved in a LGBTQ Task Force. She heard about Encompass through her church and signed up immediately to provide meals twice a month to the family. In addition to the three boys Gay works with, the family also includes a 17-year old boy and an 11 month boy. “The family is wonderful. The boys are terrific. They are a lively group!” Billye works with the mother to pick out meals the boys will enjoy like meatball casserole, chicken and vegetables, and tacos.
Volunteering with Encompass and getting to work closely with a family has enriched Gay and Billye’s lives. “You’ll get as much as you give.” says Billye. “We are as enriched as they are. I’m sure all the volunteers feel that way. It feels good to give to others.” Gay recalls a time she was stamping with the boys, and “one of the kids said ‘I love Ms. Gay.’ And I was like OH MY WORD. I will never forget that. They have enriched my life and I will never forget that.”
Their advice for other volunteers? Don’t judge. Take the family at face value and support them the way you can. “It’s all about building relationships. Being respectful of one another, getting to know the family dynamics as well as you can without intruding. ”
Gay and Billye are grateful to be a small part of this family and see how happy and healthy the boys are. They receive pictures from the foster mother of the family on fun outings or playing in the pool, and they’re planning out gifts to give the kids for their birthdays. “We both want this to be a success! We would certainly encourage others to get involved.”
Encompass: Community and Collaboration for Foster Families aims to utilize specially trained teams to coach foster parents in trauma-informed parenting techniques and to engage community volunteers to provide meaningful, tangible supports to foster families. Caring for children in foster care belongs to a community and should not be the responsibility of just one person or family.
Encompass is seeking community support volunteers to assist with an array of helpful opportunities such as once-a-month meal delivery, care packages, babysitting, and/or educational support for foster families in the Central Massachusetts area. Learn more about how to get involved at mspcc.org/encompass.