By Ginger DeShaney
Ann D’Auria and Dianne Driscoll are guardian angels for countless women and children at Julie’s Family Learning Program.
“I marvel at their passion and their dedication. This is not easy work,” said Julie’s Executive Director Bob Monahan. “You have to have the right qualities as a staff person to be effective. Their commitment to the mission of Julie’s is just extraordinary.”
For their amazing work, Ann and Dianne will be celebrated as Angels at the Julie’s Spring Event on Saturday, May 7, at Florian Hall in Dorchester.
“They came with all of the credentials, all of the passion, all of the full engagement in the mission of Julie’s, which really put them in the best position to be extraordinary,” Bob said of this dynamic duo.
“It’s a big honor,” Ann said of the recognition. “We are thrilled.”
The Julie’s Spring Event celebrates mothers and acknowledges the “wicked hard job” it is to be a parent, Bob said. “These are incredibly determined women, so it’s really celebrating all of that determination and all of that work. And it’s also celebrating the community that is Julie’s.”
The event will feature a buffet lunch and between 40-50 themed raffle baskets put together by alumni and supporters. The raffle ticket cost is affordable and there’s “the excitement of folks going around and putting the tickets in the baskets that they would like to win,” Bob said. “There will be at least 40 individuals, maybe more, who will walk out with a basket and that’s exciting.”
A highlight to this year’s event will be the “special reunion for the Julie’s family to honor their two longtime beloved teachers,” Bob said.
Ann, director of adult services, and Dianne, director of child care services, who have each been with Julie’s for about 40 years, have retired – though they are helping with the transitions for their replacements. Their patient, loving, trusting, and caring approach set them up for long-term success at Julie’s.
Dianne started as a student at Julie’s and has come full circle. She lost her oldest daughter, Michelle, at age 2-1/2, from cerebral palsy. She had two other children, Kristin (in the toddler room) and Joseph (in the preschool program), at the time. “I was broken, grieving, uneducated,” said Dianne, who also has a son, Timothy. A friend told her about Julie’s. “I just wanted a better life for my kids and Julie’s gave that to me.”
Ann was new to her job at Julie’s when Dianne was one of the first students. “Dianne was a wonderful student. She was an eager learner,” Ann said. “I was very impressed. It’s a brave thing to join a program and admit you need help and to be open to that.”
Ann pushed Dianne to go to school; she got her high school diploma, then went to Urban College of Boston and got a degree in early childhood education. “I felt good every time I graduated from something,” said Dianne.
After volunteering at Julie’s, Dianne got a job in the toddler room before rising to her director position.
After Ann had her first child, she was looking to reduce her hours and was leaving her job as a high school teacher. When Sister Louise – Ann’s seventh-grade teacher at St. Augustine’s and a co-founder of Julie’s with Sister Jean – knew Ann was leaving high school teaching, she offered her a position at Julie’s. Her children, Elizabeth and Michael, accompanied her to Julie’s when they were young.
Julie’s becomes family for all who are involved there. “They treat you like family,” said Dianne. “It’s been our home for 40 years. Ann’s like my sister.”
“We went through a lot together,” Ann said. “We spent a lot of time together.”
Ann and Dianne, who both grew up in South Boston, miss that family – and each other – in their retirement.
“I miss the people,” said Ann, 67. “I miss working with Dianne. We were a really good team.
“I really miss teaching. I’ll probably go back and tutor because I was a director/teacher all my life. I was always in the classroom, and I really miss that.
“I miss seeing people move on and make new progress and reach milestones in their lives,” Ann continued, mentioning that a lot of program participants earned their diplomas and went on to college. “What’s most amazing is to watch how the women, even if they missed some opportunities in their own lives, are really committed to their children’s success in life.”
Dianne, who will be 62 in September, misses the children and always got excited when they would learn something new. She still sneaks in now and then and the kids run over to her and give her hugs.
Ann looks back fondly on all the “graduations.” There’s a tradition at Julie’s that when someone gets a diploma, they celebrate in-house, complete with cap and gown, “Pomp & Circumstance,” and a march down the hallway with everyone clapping. “The graduates get to tell their stories and really inspire the women who are in the room that want to be in that other seat,” said Ann, who witnessed and presided over many a graduation.
“I just miss the wisdom of the women. They were just marvelous in their resiliency.”
Bob saw the love these two retirees had for their charges. “Because of their work, seeing the results, like when an adult learner graduates or a child is testing well … just to see the look on their faces when they’re at a graduation celebration or a child is about to transition from K1 or K2,” said Bob.
Ann and Dianne respect and love each other.
Dianne is a shining example of the success of the program, Ann said. “She is the rock in her family. I’m so impressed by that. She is one mother to the world.”
Dianne is quick to say, “If I didn’t have Ann in my life, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”
Added Ann, “I want to thank Dianne for being my partner in crime. Having that close bond made working at Julie’s so much more enjoyable and easier.”
And both women owe a debt of gratitude to Sister Louise and Sister Jean, who were their mentors and set them on the path to be guardian angels.
Julie’s Spring Event
- May 7, noon
- Florian Hall in Dorchester
- Sign up at www.Juliesfamily.org
- Tickets are $100
If you have questions, reach out to: Bob Monahan at RMonahan@JuliesFamily.org, 617-269-6663, ext. 11, or Jeanne Fletch at JFeltch@JuliesFamily.org, 617-269-6663, ext. 10.