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Everyone’s Mom

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - May 5, 2014

Sue Page

Sue Page (Photo: Suddenly Still Photography)

Maybe it was having a mother who helped other families in the neighborhood. Maybe it was marrying her high school sweetheart and receiving his life-long encouragement. Or maybe it was just her own big-hearted personality and the belief that children (of all ages) matter that makes Laconia’s Sue Page a Mom to many more than her own two children.

“I have always loved kids. Teens and little ones and older kids too,”Sue says.

It is lucky that Sue loves children, because she is certainly surrounded by little ones at her job as bookkeeper and family liaison of Lakes Region Child Care Services (she works in the Laconia facility). “I have been here six years in December,”Sue adds as she sits at her desk in the busy office. In the background, the sound of children’s laughter can be heard as they engage in play in the childcare section of the building.

Further reminders of the many children and families Sue serves are visible in the large circular post that runs from floor to ceiling in her office. Painted a bright red, the post serves as a bulletin board of sorts and is covered with drawings by children and thank-you notes and cards from parents. “When I moved into the office, I wasn’t sure what to do with that big post but it’s a great place to put thank-you cards and pictures made for me by the kids,”Sue says.

Indeed, there are many thank-you cards written by grateful parents who turned to Sue for all sorts of resources as well as for her valuable advice. Often, part of her job involves working with families to set up payment plans for childcare. That frequently leads to a discussion about the family’s overall finances. Priorities are a big thing with Sue and she gently reminds parents that budgeting is important and the overall responsibility for their children’s care lies with them.

“I don’t sugar-coat things when it comes to finances,”she adds firmly.

Sue has access to many resources, but she makes sure families use help wisely and act as responsible parents. The cards thank Sue for all sorts of help, ranging from finding financial aid for fuel to suggestions of area food pantries, and much more.

“I believe if you teach someone to fish, they will be able to feed themselves rather than handing them a fish. I help families find necessary resources to meet the needs of their children, but there are no handouts,”she says.

Sue’s background reads like a wonderful love story. She met her husband, Greg Page, while they were young. Laughing, she recalls, “When I was a teenager, I was working at Dairy Queen on Union Avenue in Laconia. Greg was working across the street at the car wash. We have known each other for 41 years and we have been married for 39 years.”

While Sue took a bookkeeping course at a college in New Jersey after high school graduation, Greg often made the trip “in his little sports car”to visit her, according to Sue. After she graduated, Sue returned to the Lakes Region and married Greg. They settled in Laconia where Greg is a builder. Soon two sons came along and Sue jumped right into the role of Mom with enthusiasm.

“I stayed home with our sons, Jim and Andrew, the first 10 years, and then worked part-time in the local school where they were enrolled. It allowed me to be with them as they were growing up and to have the same holidays as they did so we could do things together,”Sue recalls.

When her children attended Woodland Heights Elementary School in Laconia, Sue was the president of the PTA and her husband coached Little League baseball. Clearly, being involved parents was important for the Pages and Sue has never stopped volunteering and helping youngsters.

Today, her sons are grown. Both are in their 30s; one lives and works in Boston and the other works and resides locally. While she has no grandchildren at this time, Sue is not lacking for children in her life, due to her job and also to the volunteer tasks she undertakes.

“I have been a volunteer for the St. Vincent de Paul Children’s Foundation since 1995,”she said. “We do many projects to help children and families all year round.”

While she makes light of the commitment, Sue’s work with the Children’s Foundation takes up a great deal of her free time. It is a commitment she embraces, always using her belief in helping others but expecting those seeking help to ultimately be responsible for their children.

The foundation does many things for families in need, such as Project Pencil, offering back-to-school backpacks and school supplies for children in need. “We work closely with local school guidance counselors and nurses and child care centers because they know where the need is,”Sue said.

Young adults can receive help from the Foundation in the form of scholarship money for college books. At the Christmas holidays, basics (clothing, socks, underwear, diapers, personal hygiene items such as shampoo and soap, etc.) are given to families in need. Between 700 and 900 children receive help at Christmas.

While Sue says she would love to provide luxury items for children, it is most important to provide the basics for families. It teaches by example that it is important to make sure children are cared for in the basics before purchasing luxury items and toys.

A summer camp program offers a week of fun for children who might otherwise be stuck inside an apartment or house all summer while their parents work.

“St. Vincent’s is a big part of my life. I originally got involved when someone mentioned it and I was interested in learning more. The look on a child’s face or a parent’s face when you offer them a helping hand is worth the hours I put in,”Sue comments. (She serves as vice-president of the foundation).

When asked why she spends her precious free time, and often time at work, reaching out to children and their parents, Sue shrugs. “It is just who I am, I guess. At work, I am one of the older employees and I have the life experience. I see the need in others and I do what I can to help, especially if children are involved.”

Also, as the oldest of four children, Sue nurtured her siblings and often babysat in her neighborhood when she was growing up. Adding that she grew up around lots of kids, Sue also credits the example her mother set as another reason for wanting to give back to others.

“My Mom was involved with the nursery guild and she volunteered a lot at church. And if someone in the neighborhood passed away, she would organize other neighbors to make sure the family was fed,”Sue recalls.

As Mother’s Day approaches, Sue is very thankful for her own family. “I have a very understanding, helpful husband and I am lucky I found him! And my sons are great, too,”she reflects.

When asked what advice she would give other mothers who are raising children today, she said, “I am not sure I can give advice. I would just say that every parent has to do what seems right for her situation. And you need to realize you cannot be the best all the time.”

As for her work helping children, she concludes with modesty, “I am just one tiny ripple in the pond when it comes to helping others.”

That one ripple has touched many lives and hundreds of children have benefited from Sue’s example and her desire to help others. That is perhaps the best Mother’s Day gift anyone could receive. 

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