PEABODY – Pam DeGroot is undoubtedly one of the busiest residents on the Harriett & Ralph Kaplan Estates campus. For starters, she’s running the highly acclaimed Natalie Kaplan Speaker Series, a popular monthly event at the assisted living facility. Started by her mother, Natalie Kaplan, Pam has continued her mom’s legacy after she passed away in 2019. It’s Pam’s passion, and from the increasing attendance numbers, she’s clearly very good at it.
Born in Brookline, Pam, 73, grew up on the North Shore, mostly in Malden. A graduate of Curry College and Hebrew Union College, Pam resided for many years in Northern California and Ohio, where she worked as director of the YWCA and executive director of B’nai B’rith Youth.
Upon returning to Massachusetts, Pam volunteered her time to teach English as a Second Language classes in Malden.
Pam started coordinating the lecture series in 1999 and resumed it once Kaplan Estates resumed programming after the pandemic. For February, Pam brought in Arlene Velleman, a former Waltham special education teacher who taught the residents sign language basics. Two of her all-time favorite speakers: Michael Goldman, a political consultant who visited before the 2020 presidential election; and Steve Rosenberg, editor of the Jewish Journal. Both men prompted lively discussions among the residents.
For Pam, the lecture series is important because it carries on her mother’s name. Natalie started the series for her friends, but then decided to expand the program for Kaplan Estates residents. Her expertise was recognized in 2018 when Natalie won the prestigious Massachusetts Assisted Living Volunteer Award, honoring her outstanding work at Harriett & Ralph Kaplan Estates.
As a fairly new resident at Kaplan, Pam has quickly immersed herself in the day-to-day routine. “I truly like the residents and staff here,” she said. “Everyone is kind, open, and very friendly.”
Added Pam, “I love having Shabbat dinner every week. In fact, one of the reasons I chose Kaplan Estates is that it has a Jewish component. It’s Jewish, but not too Jewish, if you know what I mean.”
“Pam DeGroot is a wonderful addition to our assisted living family,” said Antonio Alvarez, director of community relations at Kaplan Estates. “Her classes and lectures are inspiring for the entire community. Moreover, Pam serves as a role model on how to give back and live selflessly.”
In addition to the lecture series, Pam is teaching Holiday Trivia classes the first of each month as well as classes on values. She puts a great deal of thought into each class. “I like coming up with programs that I would like to go to myself,” explained Pam. “Then I pray that the audience likes them, too.” Judging from the audiences’ reactions, it seems like Pam is getting her wish.
When asked who would be on her “wish list” of speakers, Pam didn’t hesitate to reply. “Definitely Barack Obama. Actually, on second thought, I think Michelle would be my first choice.” She added, “More realistically, I’d really like for Jewish Journal editor Steve Rosenberg to come back and speak. He was excellent.”
The importance of volunteering is near and dear to Pam’s heart. “I have a lot to be grateful for,” she mused, “and volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to the local community. My mother set a terrific example for me and I am proud to carry on her legacy.”
Community members interested in participating in the Natalie Kaplan Speaker Series can contact Ellen Gordon at 978-532-4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.