Grit & Grace: Jan Dempsey

“I grew up on a small farm in Vermont where our closest neighbor lived a half mile away. The landscape was extraordinary and Vermont is still my favorite state. I always cherished books, learning and literature, so a trip
to the public or school library was an adventure of discovery for me. I was so excited when I realized that the purpose of the public library was to provide all people with an equal opportunity for literacy and lifelong learning. As a public librarian, I wake up every day knowing that what I do supports the common good and it is a privilege to work in this supportive community.

When I am not at work, I enjoy spending time outside, whether I am hiking or working in my garden. The bird feeder and the bee hives are fascinating to me and plants are incredible. I have fun spending time with my grandchildren and watching their personalities unfold.

At the library, my staff and I value camaraderie and a few laughs during the day. It is not healthy to take ourselves too seriously. For example, I set off the security alarm when I completed a tour of the Library of Congress because I had a Hamilton-Wenham barcoded library book in my purse. My children doubled over in laughter while watching me sputter about my innocence to the security team. Well, doesn’t everyone keep a library book at the ready?

Each day I find so much for which to be grateful and I look to God for direction in my life and try to listen to His counsel. ‘The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.’ Psalm 19:8 “

Jan Dempsey has been the Director of the Hamilton-Wenham Library for fourteen years. She will retire this spring to spend more time with her grandchildren, volunteer work, and protecting our pollinators.

Grit & Grace: Becky Bishop Abbott

“I became interested in construction in my twenties when I was working a desk job and found myself tinkering around in my free time to satiate my creative needs. I’ve always sought a balance between the creative and the concrete. Much of my story has been shaped by bouts of depression, so there’s been a continuous push-and-pull to work out how my vocation speaks to my emotional health and vice versa. I find worth in helping others do things they didn’t know they were capable of doing. I love when a group of people come together and create something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. This has most often taken the form of putting a bunch of kids in a room together with instruments and being blown away by their ability to rise to the occasion and play music together.

I was drawn to The Children’s Piazza as a place where my friends felt safe to let their kids play and explore, while they as parents could feel some calm and restoration. Kids need to play, and caregivers need opportunities to recharge. I love that we’re providing a space that allows both, while also fostering community and a sense of belonging.

I’m motivated to see others succeed and overcome. I’m inspired by the brave people who are willing to share their stories, because every shared experience can pull someone off their own island of struggle. We are each other’s greatest resources. It’s tempting (especially in a world driven by social media) to try to act like we always have it together and that we always know what we’re doing. I think it’s important to discuss the challenges we face and encourage each other to reach out and receive support when we need it.”

Becky Bishop Abbott is Co-owner of The Children’s Piazza, Licensed Contractor, and Musician

For more information on the Children’s Piazza, visit: https://childrenspiazzapeabody.com

Grit & Grace: Charae D'Ambra

“I was born into an Italian family. Both my dad and maternal grandfather were pastors. Comforting people with food and affection was a way of life. In kindergarten, I wanted to be a doctor. I discovered what a nurse practitioner was in high school and decided the nursing route was a better fit for me because I wanted to focus on the whole person. I practiced pediatrics for 12 years before having my daughter.

Work was a big focus of my life before motherhood. I inherited the hustle mentality from my grandparents who came from immigrant families and The Great Depression. My husband visited Italy to ski annually before we got married. When we met, he encouraged me to consider the more European-esque appreciation for rest, play, beauty and simple pleasures.

I don’t think I ever imagined or dreamed about owning an indoor playground, until she was 12 months old. One Saturday I just needed my home to be toddler free to get some work done. My husband took her to meet a friend at an indoor playground that felt worn, dirty and unsafe to him, I quickly became obsessed and passionate about creating a space that parents could feel good about taking their little ones to because I saw the need.

I hope what we were able to do here was combine what I know about caring for the needs of others and an appreciation for the value of play along with the aesthetics of pleasant colors and music and the smell of coffee that just makes us feel better. Parenting young children is so physically and mentally exhausting, and isolating. Our secret mission here is actually reducing stress in families with young children. In a way, I think I have a greater impact on community health by creating The Piazza than I did in primary care pediatrics.

I’ve met so many incredible people as a result of this place, too. The connections tend to lead to more connections and the collaborations and networking we have been able to do here reminds me that this is bigger than me. There’s a greater purpose.

As women, we are the midwives and doulas of life; we bring things to life whether we have children or not. We can support each other by taking the time to really see each other, nurture potential in one another, and truly value each other. “

Charae is the Founder of The Children’s Piazza and also a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.

For more information on the Piazza, visit: www.childrenspiazzapeabody.com

Grit & Grace: Erin Berrigan

“I grew up on a farm in western New York. We did not lead a very conventional life. Since I was a little girl I was raised to work hard, and be a contributing member of the family. I have always been a helper. My entire life I have struggled with self esteem and feeling “worthy” and I knew I wanted to enter into a field working with kids and families. I got my Masters in Counseling and Psychology and worked in both elementary schools and middle schools as a counselor before working for Lahey doing in-home therapy as a Clinician. Helping others, and working with children and families makes me feel like I am living a worthy life.

Turning 40 two years ago was empowering. I feel like my voice matters, means more, and I have more confidence in using it. Dealing with Type 1 Diabetes is complicated, grueling and difficult, but I also feel more ready than ever before to treat my body with value. Tomorrow is never a given...but to me, living a life that feels valuable and meaningful is about putting one foot in front of the other and tomorrow being a new day because let’s face it, some days are hard. Very hard. No sense in being miserable over it. Forgiving yourself, and taking care of yourself is a huge gift you can give yourself and your family.

My kids and my family have seen my ups and downs, my highs and lows. I want to be a role model for them in showing them that hard work, discipline, kindness, and a healthy perspective can help them get to where they strive to be in life.”

Erin is currently a Planning Room Facilitator for the public school system, and former preschool teacher at Christ Church Parish Day School in Hamilton, MA.

Grit & Grace: Tricia D. Young

“I am a proud mother of 3 wonderful daughters, an entrepreneur, a fitness & boxing enthusiast, a Babson College MBA and humanitarian. My journey as an entrepreneur was born of necessity. In 2013, I experienced three major life-changing events that changed my entire outlook and goals for the future. I learned that I was gravely ill, shortly after that I lost my job of 15+ years as a business executive, and shortly after that separated from my husband of 15+ years. It was honestly the MOST trying time of my life but I emerged with an unwavering determination to stay healthy, re-invent myself, and immerse myself in work that would be impactful, particularly for those who are dealing with transition given what I had experienced. During this time I launched my consulting practice, in which we design and facilitate entrepreneurial programs and provide management consulting services for companies looking to scale.

Several years later, I received an invitation to join Boston Mayor Martin Walsh's mentorship movement to be a mentor and help inspire more inner-city young people to learn more about entrepreneurship, particularly youth who may or may not have a criminal record, be in school, or have a job. This was particularly important where crime was and still a big issue for this demographic. One thing led to another and through a collaboration with ROCA and other area agencies, an entrepreneurial program was born. In 2015, I launched my non-profit, the TLE Center for Urban Entrepreneurship to house this and other training programs for young people.

On a personal level, I consider myself to be a fundamentally kind and caring person. This keeps me grounded with what’s important as a leader and influencer in my space. I am passionate, driven, and a continuous learner. I am not afraid to make a mistake for I believe that there is a lesson in everything. My passion is to help others who are in transition via entrepreneurship and to inspire more young people to start companies that improve the communities in which they live and serve.

I am continually motivated and inspired by my daughters; everything I have done and will do is with their best interests in mind. Through them, I am encouraged to remain relentless in the pursuit of excellence and the creation of a legacy.

My field of work is male-dominated and there are noticeably few women that are of color or immigrant background in my space so to be representing this demographic and working collaboratively with all of the other players in my space is a true honor!”

Tricia Young is the President of TLE Urban Center for Entrepreneurship and Principal of TLE Consulting Group. For more information: www.tlecfue.org and www.tleconsultinggroup.com

Grit & Grace: Roxana Frizzi

“The piano has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember. In my childhood universe, it was the miraculous, incredibly fascinating, intimidating, and magnetic object that most of my earliest and clearest memories revolve around.

Growing up in Romania, my parents and teachers always expected me to do my best. When I was around 12 years old, my teacher was preparing me for some international competitions in Italy. I remember my mom telling me, “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. But if you choose to do it, we will support you 100%, and ask that you too commit to it 100%.” To become and stay a good musician, besides love for music, one needs discipline, time management, analytical thinking and self criticism, problem solving skills, to perform under pressure, set and achieve short and long term goals, and so much more. It’s a wondrous and captivating lifelong journey.

I started out convinced that I wanted to be a touring artist, moved across the world to follow my dream, toured for a while, and then I realized I didn’t need to be in a gigantic, renowned music hall somewhere far away to make beautiful music. I can experience those precious moments in my living room, a house concert, a small local venue, or a retirement home. I fell in love with teaching and felt the need to nurture. Then I fell in love with my husband and strongly wanted a settled life. I am now a new mom to baby Zoe. I have loved this whole process of change. Music is all around me, always. I hope to instill a love of music in my students, because I know that if I do, it will enrich their lives forever.”

Roxana Frizzi is a concert pianist and piano teacher, based in Hamilton and Boston Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.roxanafrizzipiano.com.

Grit & Grace: Tachou Dubuisson Brown

“I am a woman with an independent soul that drives my being.  Being born a middle child, it has always been my destiny to pave my own way through this life. Somewhere deep inside me I have always had this yearning to be and do great things for others.

After six years of being dissatisfied climbing the corporate ladder and sitting behind a computer, I decided I needed a change. At 5’10” and a size 2 (at the time), I had often been asked if I was a model or if I played for the WNBA.  My one season basketball career from high school did not qualify me for WNBA tryouts, so I decided to look into modeling instead. I took a personal day off from the office and walked into several modeling agencies in Boston. I had no experience. Every agency turned me down, except for the last door.  She said yes, and the rest, as they say, is history. Eighteen years later, my modeling career is still going strong! My modeling career is what helped me cultivate my personal independence. Becoming a model meant I was now in more control of my life and finances.

I was born to Haitian parents who legally came to the United States to further their education.  My father moved our family to Beverly where he became very active in politics. My parents started the first organized soccer league in Beverly.  After my parents divorced when I was eight, my education was strictly enforced by my mother. She kept us in Beverly to ensure I stayed on track with my grades.  My mother has taught me so much, including the value of hard work. Being a young single mom, raising my two siblings and me, she worked two jobs to make ends meet. She made sure we understood that we each had the responsibility to provide for each other.  Of the many lessons she (and my grandmother) taught me one stands out the most: there isn’t anything in this world that I need that I can’t provide for myself.

When I became a mother of two boys, I fell into the common dilemma most moms run into.  “I want to take care of my babies but I have a lot of career left in me!” In October of 2018, the opportunity arose to own a yoga studio in my hometown. Given my positive upbringing, being able to give back to my community in this way has been a dream come true. I firmly believe that introducing yoga to children at a young age is crucial, as it teaches body awareness and mindfulness which produces healthier behaviors into adulthood. Purchasing The Village Oasis has given me the opportunity to do this with my children by my side.  Parker, age seven, and Logan, age five, love practicing with me. Parker uses his breathing techniques when his brother “gets him worked up.” I’ll take that over aggression any day!

I understand that each and every one of us has a purpose in our lifetime. My passion in life is to spread joy and help others achieve genuine inner happiness.”

Tachou Dubuisson Brown is the owner of The Village Oasis in Beverly, MA, a yoga instructor, a professional model, and a mom. The Village Oasis class schedule can be found on https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/launch

Grit & Grace: Katherine Hooper

“My original goal in life was to be the Artistic Director and Choreographer for a dance company only; however I quickly learned a few years into founding the dance company, that it was not realistic to make a sustainable living. I decided opening a dance studio was the best way to facilitate my passion for bringing dance to the community and continue to offer the professional dance company a space to thrive. I founded the BoSoma Dance Company in Boston in 2003, and then in 2010 opened the Mass Motion Dance North studio educating children ages 3-18 of the art of dance. In 2017, I moved the studio to Hamilton and changed the name to BoSoma School of Dance.

Dance is the movement of the soul; we all have a rhythm within us, it’s just how we let it out. Helping others pull the movement out, nurturing students and my professional dancers to rise to a place of excellence through the technique and art of dance makes my heart sing. Guiding children to find their voice and confidence through movement individually and within a supportive group gives my work value, as does seeing my dance work come to life on stage.

The driving force in my professional career is keeping dance alive in our culture and communities. I am fiercely passionate about not letting the art of dance die. Inspiring youth to appreciate dance and learn the art of it, whether they continue to dance in their future or become a supporter of the art so that they go see dance performances motivates me. The warm reception that BoSoma School of Dance has received since moving to Hamilton and BoSoma Dance Company has received for our performances at the Larcom Theatre in Beverly has inspired me to believe that there is a need and desire to keep dance alive here on the North Shore!”

Katherine Hooper is the Artistic Director of BoSoma Dance Company and Owner of BoSoma School of Dance in Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Grit & Grace: Sergeant Karen Wallace

From as far back as I can remember I have always been interested in law enforcement! I earned my black belt in karate and became an instructor, which increased my interest in becoming an officer as it gave me great confidence. I enjoy sharing those skills with women during several RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) classes. I have been a full time police officer for about 30 years. I started as an Auxilary Officer at the Wenham Police Department. I was promoted to the position as a part time officer (Reserve) around 1984, and then became the first female officer in Wenham’s history when I became full time in 1986. Later, in 1988, I transferred to the Hamilton Police Department. I have always enjoyed hearing from people I was able to help in the past, and to know I had a positive impact. It was always such an eye opening experience to hear from a person whose life was turned up side down from a tragedy and then to learn that they are doing well. It made me realize that as human beings we all go through difficult times. It’s part of life, but it also made me realize that with time, things do in fact get better.

When I first became an officer, a lot of people said to me, “They’re not going to accept you.” However, I didn’t feel isolated from my co-workers at all. At first, there was some hesitancy from the public when they saw a young, female officer approach them. I have experienced everything from being dragged 100 feet on the side of a car by an irate motorist, to receiving puzzled looks from motor vehicle operators who were speeding and didn’t know what to say other than, “You’re a woman??”, to even having kind residents offering to do my job for me.

In the 1980’s it was rare to have a female officer on staff. At one point in my career, I had the pleasure of assisting a local agency by working several undercover assignments. These jobs included drug buy operations and decoy assignments. While I did several drug buys, the case I remember most was of a serial rapist in the area of Salem Community College. I acted as a decoy for the department on several occasions, in an attempt to catch the attacker. On one occasion, the suspect did follow me, but didn’t attack. Though it was intense, I wasn’t afraid, as I knew the other officers had my back. In the end, the suspect was arrested, tried, and sentenced to life in prison.

My role as a mother is one that brings great challenges and lots of joy! I have two wonderful daughters. I hope that I was a positive role model for my girls and good provider for them, as well as a role model for women looking to enter the law enforcement field.