Person of the Week
Cindy Breckheimer Talks About Homes, Families, and Childcare
A wife, mother to two young children, and real estate professional, Cindy Breckheimer worked to find a solution to a childcare problem for many families by starting a fund and linking her efforts with Neighbor to Neighbor. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Breckheimer )
Ask any working young parent about childcare arrangements and you’ll likely get the same answer—finding and affording reliable childcare is a constant headache.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of concern for working parents of school-aged children as schools go forward with either a fully remote learning setup or a hybrid model of learning.
So, when the Madison public schools decided to start the school year with a hybrid teaching model and working parents found themselves struggling to pay for hours of childcare, Cindy Breckheimer wanted to find a solution.
“As school [opening] approached and the hybrid plan for Madison was released, I saw more and more parents expressing their concerns on how they would make this work. Unexpected childcare costs for school-aged children are a huge financial burden for many families. Without available care, how will these parents work? It’s a huge problem for so many families,” she says.
She explains that she realizes how some families need relief from their financial struggles.
“There have been many times in my life where I saw how hard it is to stretch a dollar when you have already really cut out all extra spending. Having an extra cost like [childcare] can be devastating, if not impossible. How can one choose between work in order to provide basic necessities and having care for their children? This is an impossible situation and I really want to be able to help as many people in town as possible,” she says.
It took some work for Cindy to find an answer.
First, she decided to set up a Facebook donation page to raise funds.
Next, she researched the best organizations capable of handling relief requests and funds distribution to families in need.
That led her to the Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) Fund and Founding Director Laurie Heflin. The fund is managed by The Madison Foundation.
N2N, says Cindy, works with the Madison Youth & Family Services, which distributes the funds under its COVID Relief Impact Program.
For her part, Heflin admires Cindy’s efforts.
“Cindy is a working mom who, despite dealing with her own COVID-19 worries about sending her children to school during this pandemic, is imagining what other parents might be going through. [She] is well aware of the difficulties of finding a licensed daycare provider, let alone being able to deal with the high cost of care. Her empathy and compassion are two qualities that have—most fortunately for me—led her to N2N,” Heflin says.
On the Madison Foundation website, Heflin explains that donations to the COVID-19 Fund have exceeded $100,000. It’s welcome news for people who will need help in the months ahead. Direct payments to recipients are available to provide support for families dealing with unexpected job losses, childcare payments, or energy assistance.
Because the need is great, donations remain vital. Checks can be made out to The Madison Foundation/N2N and sent to P.O. Box 446 Madison, CT, 06443. Donors should indicate “Childcare Fund” in the memo line.
To fill out an application for COVID-19 funding, families in need can visit the Madison town website’s COVID-19 page and click on the link for the COVID-19 Impact Program.
She Loves School and Houses
Cindy is first to admit she is driven, eager to learn, and open to growth and self-improvement.
It shows in her accomplishments.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in athletic training from Southern Connecticut State University, then went on to earn two master’s degrees, one in health education with a teaching certification in health education and physical education for K-12 and another in curriculum instruction.
“I love school,” she says and laughs.
After receiving her first master’s degree in 2006, she taught at a high school in Stamford.
But even as she was immersed in her teaching profession, a career change was coming her way.
She realized that while many felt that buying a house was a difficult process, she enjoyed buying her first home with her husband—so much that she wanted to learn more about real estate.
So in 2011, she took her real estate classes toward her license.
It’s a career she pursued with a sense of purpose.
“I feel so lucky to have found a career I truly feel passionate about,” she says.
She started doing real estate part time while working full time as a teacher. In 2013, she was expecting her first daughter, but pushed on and finished her second master’s degree.
In 2014, she launched her company, Forever Homes Real Estate. In 2018, she made the complete change from a teaching profession to a real estate career.
“Being a small business owner fulfills my passion for continued learning and growth while being able to work directly with my amazing clients. Helping people buy and sell a home is a huge responsibility and I want all my clients to leave this huge transaction knowing that their wants and needs mattered above all else,” she says.
Today, she is working toward her designation as a seniors real estate specialist to give her the training and expertise to guide homebuyers and sellers over the age of 50 through their financial and lifestyle transition.
Cindy adds that her career in real estate helps her make new friends. One client even followed in her footsteps and pursued a career in real estate. They now work together in the real estate world.
She also gives an added service to new female Madison residents: She is the vice-president of membership at the Madison Newcomers Club, a group that meets monthly and “offers advice and support to help navigate moving to a new location,” she says.
As a parent, she has involved herself in community- and school-related activities for school-aged children. She is mother to two school-aged daughters, Peyton and Livy, with husband, Kurt.
At Jeffrey Elementary School, she started a new role as the treasurer of the PTO; with the help of a friend, she also started a girl scout troop in the community.
Reflecting on her community involvement, she says she has been grateful for the opportunity to find a solution when the problem of childcare came up, and to reach out to families even in the midst of a pandemic.
“This year, more than any other, has taught me the importance of listening, learning, and then doing something about it.”
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