As my youngest son transitioned from needy toddlerhood to the heady independence of preschool, I began to miss volunteering. Even though I’ve always worked full-time, volunteering has been hugely important to me from the time I was a teenage candy-striper at Emerson Hospital in Concord. (I wore very stylish jumpers, too.) I’ve delivered Meals on Wheels, visited with the elderly and continue to handle communications for Arlington EATS, providing food to neighbors in need.

Before I had kids, I was part of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters. I worked with two “littles” over the course of about four years. We’d go mini-golfing, or visit the Museum of Science or browse bookstores. When I got pregnant, I transitioned out of the program due to time constraints—but I missed having a direct impact on someone’s life.

Of course, COVID-19 completely upended everything, and I was lucky just to work full-time without mauling my children, both of whom were doing remote school (or no school at all, in the case of my youngest). However, after they headed back to school and life settled down a bit, I was ready to get back into the volunteering game. I first reached out to JBBBS about a new Big Sister opportunity, and they suggested Friend 2 Friend instead.


The program pairs adults with mild to moderate disabilities with a pal for phone calls, meetups and community interaction. I went through a fairly rigorous screening process—including a background check and interview—and then heard from a social worker, who matched me with my pal. She lived nearby, had similar interests as me (old Hollywood podcasts, food, film, books) and needed a friendly visitor. We had an initial getting-to-know-you coffee date with our social worker, agreed on the terms of our friendship (which includes splitting the cost of outings, understanding the parameters of the connection so that nobody feels too put-upon and best modes of contact) and planned to see one another again soon.

Ideally, we meet up once or twice per month and check in by phone a couple times per month, too. The pandemic’s unpredictability has made getting together a bit difficult: I’m still leery about dining inside, and the snow has made it such that al fresco strolls are weather-dependent. But! I’m hopeful that it will be easier to meet up in warmer weather, and phone and text are super-easy ways to stay in touch no matter what. We’ve had several phone chats, and I just texted her for a morning hello.

Most of all, this feels like a meaningful opportunity to make a significant connection with someone else as opposed to donating money or volunteering for a one-off event. I’m busy: I have daily deadlines, two kids and other irons in the fire, but this is a manageable way to give back and to also learn something myself. It’s not a one-sided situation: My pal has a wealth of knowledge about old movies and is an incredible mimic. She has lots of fun stories. It feels like a true friendship, not an obligation. We both have our own lives, and that’s understood.

If you’re a busy parent looking for a way to volunteer, I definitely encourage you to check out Friend 2 Friend. Browse the FAQs, or email me if you want more info!