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Norma Ortega Gives Back to BGCL

April 26, 2017

Her two sons are grown now, but Norma Ortega still recalls the fear and worry she experienced when she became a single mother after her marriage of 12 years came apart in 2003.

"I constantly reassured my boys that everything was fine while hiding the truth that I was falling apart from the effort to make ends meet. I was financially and emotionally broken, and I worried that I was failing my family," Ortega said. "The turning point came when I heard about the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence. I began volunteering by serving supper to the youth members so I could learn more about the club. It wasn't long before I knew it was the right place to care for my boys when I couldn't."

Ortega credits her family's happy ending with the guidance and mentoring that all three of them received from the club. Today, 25-year-old Marquez Canery is a graduate of Bridgewater State University who wants to work with troubled youth to pay forward the kindness shown to him at the club. Malaquias Canery is a 20-year-old junior at Clarkson University who is double-majoring in communications and business administration. He is driven to succeed at the highest level of his profession so he can give back to the club as one of its top donors.

For her part, Ortega is forming a bilingual support group for club parents designed to reduce parental stress, isolation, and depression while increasing coping skills, social support, and a sense of competence. She is also ensuring that parents understand all the opportunities available to youth members, including homework help, a myriad of sports and recreational activities, digital arts, the Healthy Living Club, arts and crafts, and supper each night.

Ortega takes great pride in paying forward the lessons she learned alongside her sons all those years ago at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, which she calls their "second home."

"Now that I'm on the other side of this difficult time in our lives, I have come to understand that the beginning of life does not have to determine the ending," she said. "Life can get better - not by chance, but by the changes we embrace."

Stephanie Bryant, volunteer coordinator at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, said there are as many volunteer opportunities as there are needs to be met. "People shouldn't underestimate their contribution, whatever they have to share," she said. "Giving your time and attention to children is such an important way to help your community. And it's fun."

To learn about volunteer opportunities at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, contact Bryant at 978-683-2747, ext. 117 or sbryant@lawrencebgc.com. For more information, visit www.lawrencebgc.com.

Did You Know?

Over 200 boys and girls participate in arts and crafts activities every week.