We have heard that it takes a village to raise children but finding our village can be another story. People are increasingly busy and in spite of the many ways to communicate, parents of young children often feel isolated. That’s what motivated a group of five women to create a cooperative called “Village” in a storefront at 140 Elmwood Avenue between North and Allen Streets. It’s an inviting space with a friendly front porch to welcome visitors with an appointment so call or email ahead to let them know you are coming. When you enter, you will find a comfortable couch, books to peruse or buy, toys and relaxed but focused activity. You might hear children playing, see a mother “wearing” a sleeping infant and chairs set up for the next parenting event. Say yes if offered tea; the hibiscus lemonade is tasty.
Basically three businesses came together with the common goal of supporting young families to create Village. The businesses are: Mary Miller’s Holistic Parenting Network, the Buffalo Doula Collective run by Gina Varney, Angel Kulczyk, and Lu Ann Conte, as well as WholeNINEwellness which is Rebecca Mercurio’s yoga and massage practice. Services include prenatal yoga and massage, childbirth education classes, doula services including a certification course, birth pool rentals, breastfeeding and babywearing classes as well as peer support. In the massage room, there is a custom table to accommodate a pregnant belly and relieve pressure on the spine. The store offers books on pregnancy and child birthing as well as locally crafted gifts. Buying a gift there combines an errand with a moment of respite and connection for parents and children.
Becoming a parent is a transformative moment in people’s lives; everything changes. It makes sense to have a place to go to learn, to connect and to grow. The founders of Village are not only enthusiastic about helping others to find their way during the early years of parenting children, they have young families themselves so they know firsthand what parents are experiencing. When Mary and I spoke, her infant slept on her back and her older child played nearby. Massage therapist, Rebecca Mercurio, finished a session, left to pick up her child then returned so he could play with his friend a little while after school. Clearly, both parents and children benefit from the experience of community.
It is a welcoming place where children and their parents feel at home. The website, www.villagebuffalo.com has a list of their upcoming events as well as online support serving over 1500 people at this time. A popular event, “Family Jam”, is offered several times a week and involves socializing, music participation and early literacy support. The list of offerings continues to expand; currently Rebecca Mercurio is completing training to offer family bonding retreats for before and after birthing. Although Village has been open just over a month, it feels like it has been here longer. The need and I would suggest, the desire to have a parenting center in Buffalo has been around for a long time. With all the positive things happening in our city, supporting young families bodes well for sustaining the progress we are making. Young parents today are shaping the city of tomorrow.
Judith Frizlen is the founder, executive director, and parent-toddler program teacher at the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center (www.therosegarden.us). Author of Words for Parents in Small Doses, available at Talking Leaves book store on Elmwood Avenue. She and her husband, Karl, are Buffalo boosters who love to kayak and bicycle in the summer and cross country ski in the winter. They also support local arts and education. They live in the Elmwood Village and have two adult children who have chosen to call Buffalo home.