Molly Sheriff is one of VIM’s invaluable front desk volunteers. She has been part of the receptionist team for the past eight years. That kind of commitment means the world to VIM — a receptionist who can be relied on to confidently hold the fort, to know how to put people at ease, and to be familiar with the workings of such a diverse operation as VIM.
“I had an interesting young life” — the words of a woman who lived in seven cities during the first 14 years of her life. No, Molly was not an army brat. Her father was in the retail shoe business working for a national chain, and as he rose in the company his expertise was needed in cities across the northeast and in Detroit. Because the family moved so frequently, Molly and her sister learned how important it was to be adaptable and pro-active when it came to making friends –“You have to put yourself out … you have to add people to your repertoire.” And, everywhere she’s lived, Molly has found that volunteering is an ideal way to do just that.
Molly was born in New London CT, and one of her fondest childhood memories was living close to her grandparents there. Although she only lived in New London until age 6, Molly returned there every summer until she was 12 to spend happy, lazy days at the beach, and then attended overnight camp until she was 14. One year she spent an entire summer with her grandparents.
Molly’s family finally settled in Springfield where she completed High School at Classical. In those days Springfield had four High Schools — Classical for college prep, Trade, Commerce and Technical. This system is no longer in place, and Molly feels its dismantling was “the biggest mistake, because we still need trade schools”. Molly attended Framingham State College (now Framingham State University) — it was an all-girls school then — where she “received a great education to be a teacher”. While at college, Molly formed a small organization for the few Jewish women on campus, and became its President. She and her friends also took advantage of their proximity to Boston to enjoy what that city has to offer. After college Molly lived in Boston for 4 years and taught in Dedham, MA.
During her college years Molly spent two summers as a counselor at Camp Naomi in Maine where she “really enjoyed not only the campers, but the camaraderie amongst counselors. She remembers, less fondly, having to take campers into the freezing waters in August off the coast of Maine — “the water felt like it must have been about 40 degrees”, and it still makes her shiver to think about it. Her love of the ocean remains with her to this day — it’s one of the things she misses most in the landlocked Berkshires.
When Molly settled in the Berkshires in 2006, she had been living and teaching in San Francisco for 36 years. During 15 of those years she was Assistant Director of Pacific View Staff Development Center in Pacifica, CA, where she was a classroom teacher and was involved in teacher training, development and facilitating for two school districts. Even then Molly managed to fit a lot of volunteering into her busy San Francisco life — with the San Francisco Symphony, The Asian Art Museum League and her synagogue among other organizations. “That’s who I am! ” she says, “Volunteering is such a good way to meet people, and VIM is the one place where you really see the people you are helping — that’s very important to me — you see how the clients really appreciate it and benefit from it, and that’s what keeps me going.”
This spirit of volunteerism remains a strong part of Molly’s personality. She has been able to apply some of her educational skills to this work — “learning how to get along with all kinds of people, being warm and friendly, and understanding the importance of planning and being organized.” Molly has been involved with VIM’s Coupon Booklet Committee since its inception … originally seeking vendors willing to make the booklet available. She enjoys being an integral part of the VIM Gala committee each fall, too — “It’s such a fun event.”
Great Barrington brings Molly closer to her family. She has family in Mill River and Albany. She and her mother used to visit Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow each summer, so she knew this area well enough to know it would be an ideal place to live when she left San Francisco. A favorite summer pastime is sitting out on the lawn at Tanglewood on a sunny Sunday with the Times spread out around her.
Memories of her years in San Francisco? Molly “loved the weather, and the fact that San Francisco was a walking city; and I enjoyed being able to see the Bay every time I left home. Also, San Francisco is full of people from all over the world with varied jobs and interests.” She skied in Tahoe and played tennis. “I worked as a sales associate for women’s clothing in San Francisco and Lenox — I love to shop for clothes.” She has always enjoyed travel, too. “One of my favorite places was Italy – especially Tuscany ¬¬— but every time I came back over the Golden Gate Bridge and looked at San Francisco, I would think: this is one of the most beautiful places in the world.” Here in Great Barrington Molly enjoys belonging to a book club, is an avid movie-goer, and loves dining out. She is involved in a women’s group at Hevreth where she co-chairs the Membership Committee. She volunteers in the Friends’ Office at Tanglewood and works in the Human Resources office at the Norman Rockwell Museum as needed. She likes to interrupt her winter “hibernation” by taking short trips – this year she’ll spend a week with friends in Mexico for an annual Arts and Crafts event there, followed by four weeks in New York City. She would LOVE to live in New York. “I’m a city girl, really!” she says.
The stability, experience and knowledge epitomized in VIM volunteers like Molly goes a long way towards making the interaction between clients and clinicians operate as smoothly as it does … and her long term involvement shows how satisfying the work is to Molly who, with her fellow volunteers — clinicians and others — helps keep the wheels turning at VIM.