Resource Guide: HilltownFamilies.org
By Georgia Douillet, The Women’s Times
For parents living on the wooded spine of hills that separate the Berkshires from the Pioneer Valley, geography once had an isolating effect on the parenting experience. Then came Hilltown Families, an online resource turning miles-apart neighbors into a tight-knit community embracing members from north Berkshire County, the wilds of the Westfield watershed and downtown Northampton.
“The term ‘family’ and the term ‘community’ are really the same thing,” says Hilltown Families editor, coordinator and founding visionary Sienna WIldfield. Wildfield moved to West Chesterfield near the beginning of her own parenting journey and quickly realized how useful it would be to have a virtual bulletin board where parents could post their concerns, share resources and meet one another. Hilltown Families began as a listserve for families organizing potlucks and playgroups. As it developed, it added a blog, then a community radio presence (on 103.3 WXOJ, Northampton), and a podcast for areas outside the station’s frequency. It now includes a vibrant Facebook presence. Writers provide regular commentary, from the perspectives of a teen mom to a mother of boys describing family-friendly ways to “Thrill and Tire” her tribe. Rachel Simmons, a leading expert on girls’ psychological development, is one of the newest regular contributors. In between, regular moms and pops, grandparents, aunts, guardians and others share places to go, things to do, tips, resources and concerns. Hilltown Families’ utility extends far beyond Wildfield’s original vision; as an economic development tool, it showcases the cultural and social riches of the region for prospective newcomers.
Wildfield, a self-described activist, is delighted that the seeds she and a few other community-minded, tech-savvy families planted have blossomed into such a rich resource.
That resource has not only rescued many a parent from cabin fever. It has rounded up roof-rakes, alerted followers to the latest in school cancellations and made people aware of community resources in region-wide emergencies like the devastating December ice storm two years ago. “I want to see our community become healthy and strong,’ says Wildfield. “It takes a lot of time, but it’s a labor of love. I feel this is an important resource for the community to have, and it fuels me that way.”
Reprinted with permission. Originally appeared in the
March 2011 issue of The Women’s Times.