~ By Meg Butterworth, freelance writer and PEPS alumna
PEPS is celebrating its 30 anniversary, and that is no small feat for a non-profit organization. Three decades ago PEPS’ early founders took to heart the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” and through grass roots collaboration they built a system of support for new parents in three neighborhood groups. Fast-forward to the present, and PEPS has grown into a membership of 2,400 families spanning two counties. Its reputation is such that it earns recommendations from pediatricians, midwives, public health providers, friends, family, colleagues and neighbors throughout the region. Without the ongoing support of its members, such accomplishments could not have happened.
I was reminded of this steadfast support when I met with Stephanie Kristen. A fifteen year veteran of PEPS, she like so many, has benefited from the long-term companionship, comradery, advice, counsel and love that her PEPS group has provided.Shortly after enrolling, Stephanie and her husband, Erik realized just how important their decision to join PEPS was and how valuable their group was going to be to them not just at three months but years down the road. Moved to give back, the couple decided to make a contribution to PEPS through the United Way giving fund at Erik’s company, Paccar. Now well past the infant years and partway into the teenage years, their annual support continues.
Stephanie and Erik relocated to Seattle from Michigan in 1988. Ten years later, their daughter, Mary was born.Being one of the first among her friends to have a baby and lacking local family support, Stephanie took the advice she received from the hospital and signed up for PEPS.
“It was nice to know that mine was a common experience, that I’m not alone and this too shall pass,” Stephanie recalled. “PEPS saved my sanity and my relationship with my husband.”
With fifteen years under their belt, Stephanie and Erik’s PEPS group has lived through many of life’s ups and downs, including the introduction of siblings (Stephanie and Erik’s son, Thomas came along in 2001), miscarriages, adoptions, and moves.
Stephanie and Erik learned that PEPS was so much more than those first few months of group facilitation. “The connections you make are key,” Stephanie said.
Even though her group no longer meets weekly and the children are all in different schools, they still make time for one another. For six years they organized a group trip to Lake Chelan. Just last winter some of the families enjoyed a ski trip together. Mary catches up with some of her PEPS pals at occasional sleepovers.
“I feel so lucky to have PEPS in my life. Everyone should have access to PEPS,” Stephanie shared while reflecting on her experience.
She went on to say that she and Erik and the other members of her group were fortunate to be able to pay the membership fee to join PEPS. Not everyone is in such a position, but everyone needs help parenting. Understanding this reinforces their commitment to give back to PEPS. They know that their contribution enables the organization to reach out to more families.
“Without a doubt I have received much more from PEPS than I have given to the United Way.” Erik said. “When I make my United Way pledge each year I feel even better about my giving knowing firsthand how much good it does.”
Stephanie and Erik are one of many PEPS families who have chosen to give back through their workplace giving campaign. Such ongoing support promises to help see PEPS through another 30 years. Just as it takes a village to raise a child it takes a village to keep a valuable community resource like PEPS going.
PEPS is lucky to have support from veteran parents like Kirsten and Erik. United Way and Workplace Giving like at Paccar are a great way to support PEPS – thanks!”
About the Author
Meg Butterworth lives in NW Seattle with her husband and two children. She joined PEPS in 2006 and still meets with her group to celebrate and share in all of parenting’s joys, surprises, challenges and curveballs.
She enjoys writing, cooking, gardening and catching up on all of her favorite shows while the kids are in bed. She has volunteered for PEPS as a group facilitator, fundraiser and more recently as a contributor to the PEPS Newsletter.