SHE Network is a warm, compassionate and highly collaborative group of women who volunteer their skills, talents and resources to empower those in need in our community.
Sonja Grondstra - Founder
Fiona Minney - Chair
Jennifer Lunt - Secretary
Maribeth Forbes - Treasurer
Loren Weston - Client Liaison Director
SHE Network helps clients in three major ways:
Gift of Empowerment: Our highest level of assistance involving a written application and initial conversation over coffee to get to know our clients. The Board then reviews the ways SHE Network is able to offer support.
Random Act of Kindness: A gesture of support, such as a bouquet of flowers or gift certificate, allocated on a monthly basis to a woman in our community in need of a pick-me-up.
Holiday Appeal: Our only annual fundraising appeal to our community raising funds for our ongoing assistance and empowerment activities, as well as providing unsolicited holiday gifts for our clients.
The feedback from our clients illustrates the positive impact SHE's emotional support, professional advice, referrals and practical assistance has on the women we assist.
These comments illustrate how our clients feel about the empowerment they achieved through SHE Network:
“Thank you for taking the time to come meet me in person and listen to my story. After you left, I felt encouraged to keep brainstorming for a strategy to get back into school... Thank you again.” Emotional support for woman suffering from anxiety after serious illness - Peabody MA.
“I … wanted to take a moment to say thank you. I have attached a few of the receipts for purchases I have made to secure my house... Thank you again!” Urgent financial assistance to SHE client in abusive, domestic relationship to install security measures at the family home.
“I truly appreciate all that you have done. It may seem small to you guys but please know that the ripple effect, not just of the help, but also the positivity and good momentum that comes with good news – ripples on far past the point where you guys can see it.” Emotional support, referral for fuel aid and donation of household appliance for woman moving to new rental housing at short notice - Beverly MA.
“I'm so grateful! I so appreciate this... Thank you, thank you, thank you!!” Pro bono, professional legal consultation for woman dealing with upcoming court hearing.
“What wonderful news you have! Thank you so much! Your words brought tears to my eyes: I hate the situation I am in, I try to find the positives, thanks to you and the SHE board I do feel like I will be okay, someday and hopefully soon.” Assistance with final car payment for single, full-time working mother of three - Swampscott MA.
My name is Regina McGorray and my four boys and I are a family that was helped by the SHE Network. I think it is important for volunteers and supporters of an organization to see the faces of the people they have helped, and to read the stories of the women and families that have been impacted. Everyone has a story, and certainly not every story is easy to tell. My boys, however, were supportive of me during our time of difficulty, and are now supportive of me during this time of honesty, so with their blessing, here is our story.
Though I had worked hard for several years while my children were young to keep myself relevant skill-wise, at the time of my divorce I was at a financial disadvantage. Local opportunities that offer mother’s hours are generally not as financially competitive as corporate positions. To keep the four children in our home, and to pay for food and utilities, I was required to make some difficult decisions. My first decision was to move my younger two children, Emmett and Brogan, out of private schools and into the Marblehead school system.
My eldest son, Seamus, was attending the Prep with a significant scholarship and my second eldest son, Declan, was in his last year at Shore and also on a scholarship, so I opted to take a second job to pay for those tuitions. I knew that if I could just survive this one year, then I could find a full-time job with a competitive pay, and the boys and I would be fine.
My strategy was derailed, however, when Declan became sick during ninth grade and was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, an auto immune deficiency disease caused by the sudden loss of function of his adrenal gland. He suffered from extreme fatigue and pain, and often became very ill. He needed me to drive him to school, pick him up from school, and generally be on constant call and communication with the school nurse.
My plan to find a higher paying job in Boston was now placed on hold until Declan graduated from high school. But once again I came up with a plan to manage the situation: I took on a third job on Saturdays and Sundays. Declan began tenth grade at Marblehead High School, and my financial situation stayed precarious, but stable. Holidays, especially Christmas, were difficult, and I was a caretaker of my parents. This responsibility, combined with my own financial pressure, left me physically and mentally exhausted.
I knew I was walking on a very skinny tightrope with absolutely no net beneath me, but I was still determined to manage the situation. I controlled what I could control: I worked harder, I worked more hours, I cut corner after corner until only a very small circle remained. I researched and applied for every possible federal program available, and I survived another year or so in this manner. But in the immortal words of Declan McGorray, every good story needs a villain, and this one is no exception.
It was the winter of the polar vortex. Our charming, but drafty, old house was no match for that terrible winter. The temperature outside, and inside our house, was very cold, and eventually the water pipes froze, and stayed frozen, until the day when they burst. Our basement was flooded with water from the burst pipes and from start to finish we did not have running water, toilets, showers, laundry, etc. for five full days. I did not have enough of a reserve to address the fallout from the pipes and things began to go downhill fast. A local benefactor heard that the boys and I did not have running water, so funds were provided to repair the pipes and small heating units donated to keep the uninsulated pipes warm during extreme temperatures. We had running water again, but I knew we were living on the edge.
Things seemed dire, but then a friend asked me to do something for her, just one small thing; trust her. Then she gave me the phone number of the SHE Network. It wasn’t easy to make that phone call, but I thought of my boys and how they were struggling along side of me, and I reached out to SHE.
I sat down with some members of SHE at Panera Bread one winter day and they managed to break down my wall of both bravery and despair. We looked at my seemingly unmanageable situation as a number of smaller problems. We analyzed what exactly was causing the most anxiety, and what smaller problems could be solved or addressed. We came up with a list of the most pressing issues, and then a list of small practical items, like boots, that would help the boys through the winter. SHE provided tangible items and services, but they also gave me intangibles such as confidence that I might actually survive, and an increased faith in my community and friends. I slept that night for the first time in a very, very long time.
I think it is important for all of us, but especially we women, to lift each other up, help each other succeed, give when we can, and understand that we are one community. By strengthening each other we strengthen ourselves as a group. When we help the women and families in our community, we teach their children, as well as our own children, the value of making a meaningful difference in people’s lives and the intrinsic value derived from simply being kind.
As for me, I’ve come full circle. Declan eventually graduated from HS and went off to college, and I was able to find a great, full time job that I love. (Thank you MIT!) The job has afforded me financial security, the ability to stay and keep my boys in their home, make a few repairs, and it’s also given me the opportunity to now be on the other side of the SHE Network; the giving side, the helping side.
When I look back on those difficult years, I have great appreciation of the help and kindness of my community, my friends, and the SHE Network. I am grateful that the boys and I emerged intact and with a belief in ourselves and others. When you give, you give more than just money or resources, you also give faith and inspiration. So, thank you from all of us, to all of you.