Every day parents across the South Shore work hard make our community a better place, and our next Parent with a Purpose is no exception. Local mom Christie Coombs is the founder and president of the Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation. Christie was recently honored by the New England Revolution as the Hero of the Match against the Philadelphia Union at the team’s home game on Saturday, July 29 during a pregame ceremony. The Revs’ Hero of the Match program honors a local first responder, member of the armed forces or individual making a difference in the community at each home game during the 2017 season. To nominate a Hero of the Match for an upcoming New England Revolution home game, please visit www.revolutionsoccer.net/community/hero-of-the-match.
Thank you to our friends at Derby Street Shoppes for sponsoring this column each month. They generously provide our Parent with a Purpose with a gift card to stop for a minute and take care of themselves. Check out their unique outdoor shopping center and a list of stores and restaurants at www.thederbystreetshoppes.com.
Here's how Christie and The Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation are making a difference in our community.
How do you make a difference? What do you want to accomplish? We assist families who have nowhere else to turn when they are having financial difficulties as a result of death or illness in their families, job loss, divorce, or other circumstances beyond their control. We also support and create programs for local communities, including a large annual holiday gathering for military families. We hope what we do in Jeff's name brings a smile to those who need it, or makes their journey a tad easier.
What inspired/encouraged you to start The Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation? Is there one specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do? Jeff's death on 9/11 and the subsequent incredible outpouring of support led us to host an auction and yard sale in Nov. 2001 in our town. We raised $50,000 which we distributed to other 9/11 families who weren't getting the kind of support we did. It felt really good to do something positive in Jeff's name and to pay it forward. A year later friends organized a road race to bring the community together on the first anniversary. It raised about $50,000 again, and we needed a way to distribute the money. We created the foundation and 16 years later; it's still going strong.
How did your life before children influence the mom you are today? What part do your children play in your desire to make a difference? I grew up the youngest of 12 kids in a rather low-income family in Arizona. I learned how to be nurturing and loving from my mom, who in spite of having 12, managed to show each one of us that she loved us equally. She wasn't the type to sit on the floor and play (we had plenty of siblings for that), but we had a lot of lap time for nursery rhymes and imagination games and were read to often. I earned my money through jr high and high school by babysitting and became an aunt when I was 10, so I babysat for them as well. My children are a major influence in why I wanted to make a difference -- Jeff and I used to volunteer in our town, and I was very involved in the schools' PTO and our church. Jeff and our son once bought me a t-shirt that said: "stop me before I volunteer again." I wanted them to see there is a world beyond themselves with people in it who can benefit by others being considerate and kind, and that the meaning of community is people pitching in to help each other and working together.
What lessons/values are you learning through this process? What lessons/values do you hope your kids are learning? I have learned so much through this process -- I've learned that grief is a process and can make you short-sighted if you allow it to. I found that for me, it was better to focus the negative energy of grief into something positive -- helping others, rather than wallow in it. I had plenty of "poor me, poor us" moments, but having something positive to do gave us hope. Although Jeff and 3000 others died horrifically, we were incredibly blessed in how people came forward to help us maneuver the endless journey of grief. It was a super scary time, but people, many perfect strangers, stepped up to help our kids and me deal with our new normal. I know our kids learned that it's important to be there for others and making a difference is hard, but worthwhile.
What can we as local parents and families do to support The Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation? We can only do as much as our donations allow. This year we raised about $90,000 between the road race in September, the Boston Marathon through the John Hancock Non-Profit Program, and straight donations. We have spent nearly every penny because the request for grants was so great. Our next road race is Sept. 10, and we have applied for #s again through the JH Marathon big program. Donations can be made at www.jeffcoombsfund.org. Many large companies will match their employees' charity contributions, and this is an easy way to increase their donation amounts. People can help by spreading the word about the foundation -- we serve families all across Massachusetts and have affected countless families over the years. Chances are most people know someone who has benefitted from the work we do. Share our mission and our fundraisers on FB, twitter, Instagram ... come to the road race/family day, and bring a friend. Beyond the foundation, talk to your kids about 9/11 and how it changed our country so drastically. As families, do an act of kindness on 9/11. That's how we want our loved ones to be remembered -- it is a national day of service and remembrance. Pay it forward, be kind, and never forget.
To learn more about The Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation, please visit them online at www.jeffcoombsfund.org.