The Peninsula offers families great schools, a mild climate, culture in spades and an array of options that can make it difficult for newcomers and new parents to know which end is up. Whether exhausted by late-night feedings or bewildered by a stack of preschool pamphlets, area parents have been turning to the Palo Alto Menlo Park Parents Club (PAMP) for support since 1991.
With over 2000 member families across the Bay area, PAMP is a volunteer-led, non-profit organization whose mission is to "enrich the lives of families with young children, both within the club and within the community." The club offers an online discussion group where members can get feedback on everything from available nannies to family-friendly restaurants, an online marketplace, playgroups, a newsletter, preschool reviews, expert speakers, a babysitting co-op, an annual rummage sale, moms' and dads' nights out, volunteer opportunities and activities for kids including holiday parties, active arts and active science get-togethers.
"The PAMP features I use most are the wealth of information in the archives and the holiday parties," says Palo Alto resident Sarah Gilbert. "But what I'll remember most about PAMP are the lasting friendships I made through the playgroup I joined for Micah."
Many members echo that sentiment, saying that PAMP is unlike other parenting groups. In fact, club President Nikki Klugh says that former residents often retain their memberships after moving away, so PAMP now has members all over the world. Although most club functions occur in the Palo Alto/Menlo Park area, there are active members all over the Bay Area.
Part of the club's success undoubtedly stems from a membership pool that may not have deep roots in the region. Many parents don't have family in the area, and they turn to PAMP to forge connections and ask advice.
"PAMP was my cord to the community when I first moved to Palo Alto in 2003," says Klugh. "Finding a new babysitter was a priority so that my husband and I could have our monthly date night. I got really involved with the babysitting co-op because I knew that with four children I needed a mature sitter and who better than another parent?"
Although the club is now officially a "parents' club" it was a "mothers' club" until recently, when members voted on the new, more inclusive name. The title reflects the active role many area fathers play in the club and in their children's lives.
If membership comes with its privileges, it also comes with a price: $48 per year for membership, $5 extra for membership in the babysitting co-op, and 2 hours of volunteer work per year. Serving the community is a price most members are happy to pay. "Delivering meals for members with new babies or the Ronald McDonald House and baking sweets for a bake sale are things that fit easily into my schedule and can include my children," says Gilbert. Other PAMP projects have included Hurricane Katrina relief, gift baskets for the residents of the Clara Mateo Alliance Family Shelter, and donations to the Save Darfur Coalition. The website, newsletter, and activities are all planned and executed entirely by volunteers.
"I've seen so many lives enriched," says Klugh. "It's hard being a parent and this community is so validating, cooperates well to make each of our lives better and has so much wisdom."
Those interested in learning more can visit the club website at www.pampclub.org or call 650-306-8182.