Life-long Bristol resident, Linda Rich spent her early childhood years feeling embarrassed about her family’s financially challenged situation – she grew up in a family of eight (she has five brothers) and it was a constant challenge for her mom and dad to provide such things as food, clothing, and the basic needs. This led to Linda feeling embarrassed until her sixth grade teacher, Mr. V inspired her to believing that she could do anything if she put her mind to it.
While attending high school at Bristol Central, Linda participated in the Bristol Community Organization (BCO) (now HRA) work program at the Bristol Chamber of Commerce which helped her earn money for school clothes and other necessities. It is here where she gained the confidence and support she needed which was lacking at home. Mr. Anthony, the President at the time, along with the office secretaries took her under their wing and taught Linda basic skills like typing, mimeographing, and other office duties. Upon graduating from high school Linda could not afford to go to college so Mr. Anthony secured a full time job for her at Bristol Pepsi Cola Company then run by the Sliver family on Terryville Avenue. With the money she earned she was able to pay rent for her own apartment, purchase a car, and save money to pay for college. Linda knew from a young age that she wanted to be a social worker so that she could give back to the community that helped her through the many challenges of her childhood and young adult life. Linda received grants and scholarships to attend Mattatuck Community College where she earned her Associates in Human Services. She then went on to earn a Bachelors degree in Social Work from Central Connecticut State University and then worked towards earning a Masters degree at UConn. She holds a social worker license from the Connecticut Department of Health.
Linda’s heart was destined to give back to the community through social work so she decided to make her home in Bristol as an adult and married Richard Rich also a life-long Bristol resident. Together they had two children who attended Bristol schools. Linda has dedicated her career to helping and supporting as many families and children as she can, as she was helped as a child and young adult. She began her career in social work here in Bristol as a contractual counselor for Bristol Youth Services where she offered family and individual counseling and group work for 20 years and where she continues working on a part time basis today. Linda also worked for six years as the Social Services Director for the Bristol Girls Club/Family Center which was located on Laurel Street, overseeing and implementing the Young Parent Program. While working as the Social Services Director, Linda created and opened the first school-based Family Resource Center at South Side School in 1996, and a second one located at O’Connell School in 1998.
After leaving her position at the Girls Club, Linda increased her hours at Bristol Youth Services and expanded her community work by serving as the Mental Health Consultant for the Bristol Head Start Program. At the same time Linda worked as a clinician for the Family Services Agency in New Britain which covered multiple towns including Bristol where she conducted home studies for couples interested in adoption along with training and supervising foster parents.
Sixteen years ago, Linda was invited to be the Family Resource Center (FRC) Director for both South Side School and O’Connell School. As the new FRC Director, Linda then opened a third part-time center at Greene-Hills School, which became a full-time center at the new K-8 Greene-Hills School, six years ago.
Linda is a certified Parents As Teachers Supervisor – a national organization – and received the highest commendation in 2016 as a “Blue Ribbon” provider of high quality parenting education/home visitation programs and services for the Bristol FRCs. Her other awards and accolades include: the 2005 Bristol Board of Education Outstanding Staff Award, the 2012 Exceptional Woman Award from Queen Ann Nzinga, and the 2013 Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Award from Bristol Hospital Parent & Child Center.
Linda is also an “All Heart” City volunteer, dedicating time as a Mental Health Advisor at Bristol preschool on a voluntary basis and as a Mentor through the Bristol Board of Education and Business Education Foundation Mentoring Program for students in Bristol Schools – the volunteer role she treasures the most! She has been mentoring children for the past 16 years, meeting with her “mentees” once or twice a week, sometimes as many as four children in a school year. Linda has had the privilege of being a mentee to two Bristol students who she began mentoring when they were in first grade and are now in high school thriving and persevering to achieve their goals. The mentoring program changes lives, and while this is true for the mentee, it is truer for the mentor. Her mentees have taught her that you can find the courage to begin again, each day, even if life gives you lemons instead of lemonade. The students she mentors have big personal challenges in their young life, but each day they come to school and do their best. It has also taught her to remain light-hearted and to have a sense of humor. Her mentees keep her laughing, while showing her the importance of play. If you’re not a mentor, please consider being a mentor for one of our Bristol Students. It only requires an hour of your time once a week. To learn more about the Bristol Public School Mentoring Program and to become a Mentor, visit the BPS website.
Linda says, “I am passionate about the work that my staff and I get to do every day at the FRCs (West Bristol, Greene-Hills, and South Side). Our mission is to strengthen the relationship between schools, families, and community to promote the optimal development of children. I like to think of the FRCs as the ‘parent’s homeroom’ in the school. Parenting is a 24/7 job and so is teaching and it is a privilege to do the work that I do every day.”
When Linda is not working or volunteering, she enjoys many hobbies and interests like writing both professionally as a grant writer and personally as an author along with journaling. She loves to watch the birds at the many bird feeders she has in her backyard, doing puzzles, and enjoys kayaking on the many wonderful waterways available nearby and throughout Connecticut.
Using her writing skills, Linda recently authored and published a book titled, “Family Letters. Building Deeper, Richer, Happier Relationships” with proceeds benefiting the Bristol FRCs and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a disease that robs people of physical strength by affecting motor never cells in the spinal cord. The book contains best parenting practices in the form of letters Linda wrote over the course of many years. Linda states, “The book is divided into sections: Life Approach, Building a Strong Family, Nitty Gritty Parenting, Difficult Circumstances, School Days, Living in a Modern Age, In Search of Your Best Self. I wrote these letters to “families” in the broadest possible sense of the word. “Family” can mean the world you live in, the people you are related to, or even just you and your cat. The “Dear Reader” letters are about my childhood having been raised in a seriously beautifully flawed family. We all long for a deep connection with those we live with and with those around us, despite the difficulties and hurts that can separate us. These letters will inspire you to bring your best self to all your relationships. They can be read in any order, by topic or from start to finish. I hope you enjoy them, as they are letters from me to you, straight from my heart.” Linda’s book may be purchased from Amazon both in paperback and for the Kindle: Amazon.