The Caring Force Blog January 2018 Member Spotlight!

| Christine Batista

As you know The Caring Force now has over 25,000 members thanks to all of you!

And this month our Member Spotlight shines on that lucky 25,000th member, Michelle Cataldo of North Suffolk Mental Health Association.

Michelle started working in the human service sector when she was 18 years old and still brings the same enthusiasm and caring spirit to work each day 30 years later.

Here’s what Michelle had to say about working in human services:

Organization: North Suffolk Mental Health Association

Years in human services: 30

Best professional memory: It is so hard to pinpoint a single professional memory because so many come to mind. But, if I were to pick one, it would have to be a more recent memory that would involve a nutrition group I facilitated for our outpatient day program.

As a nurse, I answer many questions related to diabetes and obesity or weight gain with medication. I thought it might be a good idea to have a group specific to nutrition concerns and provide education on this subject. In this weekly group, we meet for 45 minutes and discuss how certain foods contain hidden sugar and its effects on our both our mental health and physical bodies. My group began with a total of five people who frequent fast food places and attended my group with a large soda in hand.

I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out because many of them are on fixed budgets or have meals provided for them in a group home. Some days, we watched documentaries, and on other days I presented more technical videos about how the liver processes sugar. After an educational “Ted Talk,” they got into a healthy debate and observed that it seems that there isn’t anything left for them to eat since everything has sugar added to it. As a group, they helped each other figure out healthier options and learned to become educated consumers about food and what they will feed their body. Over the past months, this seminar empowered those who attended into making more informed food choices. As of last week, I had over 10 people in my group and all of them had water in hand; not one soda to be found. Now that is progress!

What one skill or personality trait has helped you the most during your employment in human services? (Question from Desmond Douglas at UCP of MetroBoston): I have been told that I wear my heart on my sleeve and would give the shirt off my back to someone in need. Isn’t that what it’s all about … kindness and compassion for other beings?

Years ago, during a winter month, my home burned down and my children and I were left with virtually nothing. Neighbors began dropping off clothing and supplies on our front porch. There was this one man who looked quite disheveled; he would walk by our house everyday with his dog. One day after the fire, he came by with his dog and handed me a coat. He said, “I don’t have a lot to give, but I have an extra coat to keep you warm.” I have never forgotten that man’s kindness. I took it as a lesson to teach my children about kindness and compassion.

Then, with every extra item that we received, the kids and I would get into the car and find someone in need on the street and give them one of the blankets or coats. My children never forgot that; in fact, all of them are in some way involved in human services. My trait of compassion and kindness has now extended to my children and is helping the world in becoming a better place. My amazing daughter, Michelle Perrin, works for JRI as a LCSW; my other daughter, Johnna, gives her time after work to be a girl’s high school basketball coach in Winchester; and my son, Justin, is involved with organic gardening and farmers’ markets. As a mother, seeing your children giving back is the most rewarding gift any parent can ask for. I am grateful.

Question for the next member spotlight honoree: In what ways would you make changes to the mental health services provided today?

P.S. If you know someone who inspires clients and embodies the spirit of The Caring Force, please nominate them on our website or email Christine Batista at for more information about our Spotlight program.

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