Back in 1988, Ronald Reagan was finishing his second term as President. The Red Sox hired Joe Morgan as manager and that saved their season. Communication was by snail mail – only they didn’t call it snail mail. Neera Tanden, now President Joe Biden’s chief of domestic policy, graduated from Bedford High School.
And Sarah Dorer and Judi Babcock created the Bedford Family Connection (BFC), a volunteer organization providing resources and sponsoring activities for families with children from newborn through age five.
On Saturday, June 24, the BFC will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a “bash” on and around Field E, between Town Center and the library from 1-4 p.m.
“We traditionally have had a spring concert. This year will be a little bit bigger to celebrate our 35th,” said Katie Kass, co-president of BFC. “It’s our kickoff to summer.”
The lineup features performances, lawn games, live music, snacks and drinks, giveaways, and Bedford Farms ice cream.
“We’re here for the community and everybody can come and have fun,” she said. Tickets are $10 per member family and $15 per non-member, available through the BFC website: www.bfctoday.org. Cash will be accepted at the event.
The anniversary bash will be “as chill as you can get with a bunch of kids who are under five,” laughed Kass. “They are kind of mesmerized by the band and the bubble person. They have a lot of fun. It’s outdoors and they get their wiggles out and the parents get to sit back and enjoy as well.”
She added that this is one of BFC’s quarterly fundraisers, and support from residents of all ages is welcome. Indeed, “We are multigenerational now. People who brought their children are bringing their grandchildren.”
Kass and Leah Devereux are completing their two-year terms as co-directors. They reflected on the 35-year milestone.
“It’s crazy that BFC has had the longevity that it has had,” said Kass. She explained the enduring relevance: “We are doing this during a very trying time of life. You have a newborn or a toddler or a preschooler – you don’t tell them, ‘Wait a minute, mommy has to shoot off an email.’”
“It’s so needed. Moms feel like it’s important and want to keep it going,” Devereux observed. “BFC is a welcome space for all sorts of families to meet and connect.” Kass said the longevity “really speaks to the need for a group like this.”
Dorer, Bedford’s 2022 Citizen-of-the-Year, said the milestone validates that “we hit on a major need and fulfilled that. It’s clearly a really important part of the community for young families to meet each other when children are young and become friends as they move through the school system.”
Every September, the Bedford Family Connection creates a new playgroup for the year’s babies, downstairs in the First Parish Church. “That’s where our community is created on a day-to-day basis,” Kass explained. “It’s a place where new parents can meet other new parents.” There are morning and afternoon sessions – babies in the morning, preschoolers after lunch, when the babies are napping.
The playgroups stay together over the ensuing years, so when they leave the BFC and head into kindergarten, the relationships are well established.
“It definitely has its benefits as kids move into schools,” Dorer observed. “Right away you have groups of people who know each other and have faith in the system.”
At a BFC event, Kass related, “It’s so fun to see a new mom walk in. You can tell she is having a hard time of it. Then you see her talk to another new mom and you see the light-bulb moment. Somebody else gets it. It’s salvation for her – my favorite thing to see.” She added, “When you have small children your world expands, but it also shrinks.”
Dorer recalled that when she and her family moved to Bedford in 1984, “I knew nobody who could help me out.” A few years later, she shared her idea for what became the BFC with Babcock; they were in the same babysitting co-op.
They promoted the proposal in the weekly newspaper, and “that first night 15 people came. Many of them were in the same situation we were,” Dorer said. It was June 1988, in Babcock’s living room, and “after about 45 minutes of brainstorming names, we finally hit upon Bedford Family Connection.”
Over the years the leadership has been entirely female, but the new co-directors, named last week, are Chris Urbine and Matthew Derman. “We’ve been getting a lot more dads,” Kass said.
Kass spoke about the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. “We never went into complete hibernation, but we stopped having public events.” The Halloween party, in the past hosted by the Parish of St Michael, in 2020 became goodie bags passed through car windows. “We had to be a little more creative.”
Membership declined. When Kass and Devereux took the reins in the summer of 2021, “We really reached out to co-directors of the past and all the people we remotely know to figure out how to do this again.”
Now the numbers are back up to about 250 households. “We have a strong amount of people who are aging out, and we have a new member every weekend,” Kass said. But the “middle” was hollowed by the pandemic, she said. “And because of who we serve, those were the people who stayed the most cloistered. They were not taking any risks.”
“We’ve expanded our membership,” Kass said. “You can add your nanny or grandparents, so they can take children to our events. We want to be as inclusive as possible.”
The BFC events calendar is close to resuming its traditional highlights – a float in the Bedford Day parade, the Halloween bash, the holiday party in December. In November, volunteers collect tiles from residents, trace children’s handprints on the tiles, and decorate those into “turkey trivets. People come back for them year after year.”
As she leaves her leadership position, Devereux said, “I want to express my gratitude to the whole organization, all of the families that have been involved the last 35 years, all the leaders and volunteers who kept it alive. I’m happy to have been a part of it.”
Dorer said she is gratified by “the fact that it actually worked. It was fun, and it really met a need. Parenting young children is really hard – and lonely sometimes.”
She added, “When people say, ‘Hey, I have this idea,’ just go with it.”