Meet the dynamic duo and co-presidents of The Depot Youth Center, a Darien-based organization run by and for students. Catherine McNear and Jenny Tarleton are local leaders and moms helping to further The Depot’s mission of building confident youth in our community. They’re also gearing up for the non-profit’s annual winter fundraiser, Blue Jeans & Blazers, taking place on Saturday, February 8 from 7-11pm. Read more about these interesting moms and don’t miss your chance to get tickets for the big event!
What brought you to Darien?
Catherine: My husband and I were raising our first two boys in New York City. As much as we loved it, we needed more space and wanted to find a place with a real sense of community to establish roots. We decided to rent in Darien for the summer to try it out, and we’ve been here ever since!
Jenny: We moved from NYC almost 20 years ago, because we wanted to settle down in a small and supportive community with good schools and people.
How many kids do you have and what are their ages/grades?
Catherine: I have four kids—2 boys, ages 21 and 19, who are in college (University of Denver and SMU in Dallas), 1 boy (17) who is a junior at Darien High School and one girl who is 12, a sixth grader at New Canaan Country School.
Jenny: Four kids—3 girls (a 19-year-old freshman at Trinity College and 14-year-old twins in eighth grade at Middlesex Middle School) and my son is 17 and a sophomore at Berkshire School.
What’s your favorite family activity in town?
Catherine: We live next to Pear Tree Point Beach and Gorham’s Pond, an area we were drawn to for the water and natural beauty. I’d say over the years we have enjoyed that most—either skating on the pond or hanging at the beach. Nothing beats a Darien High School football or lacrosse game either!
Jenny: We are very sports-oriented town and family, so it would have to be watching my kids play sports!
How long have you been involved in The Depot Youth Center?
Catherine: I’ve been on the Board of Directors since 2015.
Jenny: I have been on the Board of Directors for 5 years and co-president for one year.
What’s your favorite thing about being Co-President?
Catherine: Having the opportunity to work with my Co-President, Jenny, along with our incredibly talented and hard-working Board of Directors and amazing Depot staff. It’s so inspiring to be surrounded by others who also care about the youth of our community and like to give back.
Jenny: The collaboration with my co-president, Catherine, and the wonderful staff and volunteers at The Depot. We all come from different backgrounds, and I’ve learned so much from all of them.
Tell us about the upcoming fundraiser “Blue Jeans & Blazers” and how people can get involved…
Catherine: We are so excited about our upcoming event! Thanks to our incredible committee, it’s going to be an amazing night—Saturday, February 8 at Country Club of Darien from 7 -11 pm. Blue Jeans & Blazers will feature live music from Jump the Gunn, dancing, signature drinks and delicious food! Most importantly, this event marks 30 years of The Depot—the oldest teen center in the nation—and we will be honoring the founders, Ed von Schmidt and Carol Bishko. Our mission today is the same mission as it was 30 years ago: To build confident youth by offering a safe, connected and inclusive environment, while providing essential programming and leadership development. Get involved by coming to the event to support The Depot and learn more! Tickets can be purchased at www.dariendepot.com
Jenny: As with all fundraisers, we always need volunteers to help before and during the event. But more than anything, the most important way someone can help is to attend the event!
How has the Depot Youth Center been helpful to your own children?
Catherine: My middle two boys have been involved at The Depot serving on the Student Governing Board and SLOD (Student League of Darien). They have learned responsibility, the importance of giving back and what it means to be a leader. They will take these important life skills with them to college and beyond. Also, The Depot gives them much-needed time to relax and genuinely connect with others (no cell phones allowed!) My middle school-aged daughter recently participated in The Garden Club, an empowering program for girls and loved it!
Jenny: My children are fortunate to have taken advantage of The Depot programs, like our new Choose Love program and SADD for eighth graders. My older child also sat on the Student Governing Board. They have all gained leadership skills and compassion for those less fortunate.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another mom?
Catherine: The days go slowly but the years are gone in flash, so try to slow down and enjoy the moments. Also, as mothers, we “create” many of the memories our children have when they are grown, so it’s worth the time and effort to make them meaningful when we can!
Jenny: You have to let your kids figure out their problems on their own and not try to fix everything. It’s invaluable advice, but so hard to actually practice it.
How do you unwind when you need some “me time?”
Catherine: I love to run in my neighborhood either by myself or with friends. Recently, I started mediating each morning and that has been amazing.
Jenny: Guilty pleasure is reading romance and mystery novels!
Any words to live by?
Catherine: Be kind.
Jenny: Be present.
Favorite band, book, tv show…
Catherine: Hard to narrow down, but I do love sappy acoustic singer songwriters. My all-time favorite book is “The Great Gatsby.” My new obsession is listening to books on Audible, and I’m now “reading” much more! Favorite TV show of the moment is “The Morning Show.” Just binge watched it in a weekend. So good.
Jenny: I read a book a week, so it’s hard to narrow down. I love classics.
Anything to add?
Catherine: I feel grateful to have been able to raise my kids in Darien and be part of such an incredible community.
We love supporting local businesses. Favorite places in town or nearby to…
- Have dinner with/without kids: Scena & Colony Grill for pizza with the kids
- Grab a drink with friends: 1020 Post
- Have a date night: Rowayton Seafood & Scena
- Spend time together as a family: Movies, going to the park with our dog, taking out the boat or playing tennis
- Shop for yourself/shop for your kids: Morley and Darien Sport Shop
- Spa/salon: Andrew Stefanou & To and From Organic Nail Salon
- Grab coffee: Neat & SoNo Bakery
- Hidden Treasures: I just discovered Flour Water Salt Bread and a new love affair with bread. Yum! SoNo Bakery is perfect place to grab coffee or lunch and relax in quiet place.