Derby family gets help from TEAM to get back on their feet

CAFCA | April 09, 2015 |

  When then-new mom Alexis Tomczak was ready to head back to work following a three-month maternity leave, she never dreamed her life was about to take a bad turn.

The Derby mother of two was laid off in late 2013 after nearly 10 years on the job. She fell into despair: no job, a newborn to care for and a 4-year old that needed to attend preschool. Unable to afford pricey daycare, and only one income coming in from her husband, David, Tomczak was worried about how her young family would make ends meet.

That was until Tomczack turned to TEAM, Inc. http://www.teaminc.org/, the longtime, nonprofit Valley agency whose sole mission is to help disadvantaged folks turn their lives around.

“I reached out to TEAM to find affordable education for my 4-year old, and what I got in return was incredible,” Tomczak said during an interview at TEAM’s main offices at 30 Elizabeth St. “TEAM didn’t just stop there, they let us know about all of their services.”

Tomczak not only got to enroll her now 5-year old Hailey in preschool at one of TEAM’s 15 Head Start classrooms around the area, but she received free diapers for her baby Madelyn, now 1, thanks to TEAM’s well-stocked diaper bank. And because she was laid off just two months before Christmas, Tomczak was able to put toys beneath the family tree, courtesy of TEAM’s annual Toys for Kids drive.

Much has changed for Tomczak since turning to TEAM for help. Not only did she land a job at Pitney Bowes — one of TEAM’s biggest donors — Tomczak was also recently named to serve on TEAM’s Board of Directors, and chaired TEAM’s Parent Policy Council.

“It was hard (getting laid off), but it was a blessing in disguise,” Tomczak said, recalling how the many connections she made through TEAM changed her life for the better.

TEAM President and CEO David Morgan called Tomczak “a conqueror,” saying Tomczak has truly come full circle.

“We help people; that’s our mission,” Morgan said. “We meet a lot of people in their worse moments, and Alexis, she gets it … she engaged TEAM and now she gives back.”

Kathleen Ryan Mufson, Pitney Bowes’ director of corporate citizenship and philanthropy/president of Pitney Bowes Foundation, said both the 95-year old company and TEAM are lucky to have Tomczak onboard. With Tomczak now serving on TEAM’s board, and Pitney Bowes supporting employees who do those sorts of things, Tomczak helped TEAM land another $5,000 donation from Pitney Bowes. The money will fund a variety of TEAM’s early education programs and Family Resource Center, said TEAM Executive Vice President Diane Stroman.

Stroman said the 18-year partnership between TEAM and Pitney Bowes has been invaluable, and to date, Pitney Bowes has donated more than $400,000 to TEAM.

TEAM relies on grant funding and donations. With state and federal funds “very lean,” Morgan said without donors like Pitney Bowes, TEAM would be unable to offer the services it does.

“Their generosity helps us bring it to the next level,” Morgan said.

Pitney Bowes’ donations in particular launched TEAM’s “Raising Readers” early literacy program, and its “Around the World Computer Tots” program, where preschoolers are exposed to technology, using iPads purchased with the company’s donations.

Pitney Bowes’ global mission and strategy is focused on early literacy for disadvantaged children, said Ryan Mufson.

“We focus on programs to help close the achievement gap and develop the workforce of tomorrow,” she said. “What TEAM does is so important and we are so pleased to have gotten involved with this organization.”

Morgan said TEAM annually serves 250 preschool children, and another 70 families who are “at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.” TEAM provides supportive services and financial assistance to more than 5,400 families in the Valley and surrounding communities.