Each month our Women of Impact profile features a local woman, nominated by you, who is making an impact in our community. For this month's profile, Meredith Chandler spoke with Deborah Zipkin, who has been the Director of the Bridge Family Center's Family Resource Center (FRC) at Charter Oak Academy in West Hartford for nearly 24 years. Deborah was nominated by Amanda Aronson, a Federation donor and a colleague of Deborah's at the FRC. Amanda stated that Deborah "is beloved in our community, is a real advocate for social justice" and "truly lives our Jewish values." Amanda's words of praise were reinforced during Deborah's interview with Meredith: as they spoke, a grandmother stopped by to give Deborah a thank-you gift for all the wonderful ways she has helped the woman's family.
What inspired you to get involved in the community?
My daughter has always inspired me, and she still does. She’s an activist – the kind of person who sees something wrong and has to make it right.
I'm also inspired by my co-workers. The Bridge Family Center has a motto that I love: "Every family. Every child. Every time." And I'm so inspired by the families we work with. Our underserved populations deserve high-quality child care; my focus is on making sure that their needs are met in a positive way.
What have you done to make a positive impact?
I’m originally from New York, and I was trained as a preschool teacher. I had started a parent resource program in New York. My husband and I moved to West Hartford to raise our children, and when I saw a posting for a part-time Parent Educator at the FRC, it seemed like the best of both worlds: a chance to connect with both parents and kids.
A few months after I began working at the FRC, the director left and I was offered the role because I had a good sense of how to provide balanced programming that benefited both parents and children. I’m proud to say that under my guidance, the FRC has become a hub for much more than year-round academic programming.
We offer the Peace Place, a before and after program for preschoolers; a Family Academy, which is a series of 12 different weekend workshops; Pizza and Parenting monthly workshops with guest speakers on a variety of topics; the 1,2,3 Read with Me program that prepares children for kindergarten; playgroups for children ages 3 to 5; and a grandparents’ support group. Through a partnership with UCONN, we offer the People Empowering People personal and family development program, which had 12 graduates this year, and through a partnership with the West Hartford Adult Education Department we offer English for Families and Futures.
What is your proudest accomplishment and what is your biggest challenge?
My proudest accomplishment is yet to come; there is so much left to do! The biggest challenge is that the number of needs in our community continues to rise. But I love my work: I get to witness good things happen every day.
What role has Judaism played in your life?
My family wasn’t particularly religious, but the Jewish values of gratitude and Tikkun Olam – making the world a better place - were key parts of my upbringing. My mother lived out those values through her work with the National Conference for Jewish Women.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with other women?
When times are challenging, hang in there! There are still good people everywhere. The work of repairing the world is too important to quit, and it matters to all of us in the community.
Also, always remember to lend a hand and give a hug!
To nominate a Jewish woman from Greater Hartford to be featured in a Women of Impact profile, contact Meredith Chandler, Associate Vice President, Development and Director, Women's Philanthropy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.727.6125.