Twenty years ago, when Tammy Barry moved from New Jersey to Westport, her neighbor — a nun — suggested she get involved with Mercy Learning Center.

The Bridgeport organization — providing literacy and life skills training to low-income women — was run by nuns.

Today it’s a secular non-profit. It serves — and changes the lives — of hundreds of women a year.

Tammy Barry

Barry has been intimately involved since she moved here. She now runs Mercy’s mother/child reading program. After each session — which includes singing and parent education — everyone goes home with a new copy of the book they’ve read.

With her 3 children grown and graduated from Staples High School, Berry also tutors English and life skills.

Barry calls her group — 5 native Spanish and Portuguese speakers, in their 30s through 50s — “incredible. I love them. They have such energy, and are so eager to learn. They ask great questions, and help each other out so well.”

A 53-year-old gets up at 5:30 every morning, to get her kids ready for school. She works 5 days a week — then goes to Mercy, working on her GED.

“I’d be exhausted,” Barry says. “But she’s so happy to be there. She’s a role model for all of us.”

All of the women, Barry says, are “driven, grateful, and always smiling.”

Tammy Barry (center), and her hard-working but always-smiling students.

Mercy Learning Center is wonderful. It fills a gaping need, just a few miles from Westport.

But with over 100 women on the waiting list, it needs more volunteers.

“You don’t need to be a teacher,” Barry explains. “The curriculum tells you exactly what to do. You don’t have to speak a 2nd language, either.”

Tutors come from all over Fairfield County. They’re all ages — from retirees to young people who leave work early, or go in late.

They teach English, math, science, civics, technology and computer skills. They help prepare their students for high school equivalency and US citizenship exams, and for college and careers.

Tutor coordinators and a curriculum manager help volunteers who have questions or concerns.

Twenty years after she started volunteering at Mercy Learning Center, Tammy Barry is more committed than ever.

Now she wants you to commit to Mercy too.

(For more information or to volunteer, contact Lynn Gabriel or Erica Hoffman: 203-334-6699;;

5 responses to “Mercy!

  1. Nell Barrett

    I volunteered at Mercy Learning Center and loved it (other work/life commitments have since taken my time away). It is such an inspiring, uplifting place — so respectful and caring of the women who come to learn. Great staff and volunteers, clean and cheerful, easy parking, welcoming and so appreciative of any and all help. A wonderful community builder!!!!

  2. Nathalie Fonteyne

    Mercy Learning is a great environment for tutors and students. Tutoring is so rewarding, the students are so eager and appreciative. It is really gratifying to know I am doing something very concrete to help a fellow human being. I look forward to my sessions. The center is very conveniently located of I95. MLC has its own parking. The program is so well run, new tutors are welcomed and supported.
    Educate a woman, educate a family!

  3. Armelle Daniels

    How wonderful, thanks for posting this Dan, i am calling to inquire about volunteering right now!

  4. Tom Kashetta

    This does not surprise me. The Barry’s are the nicest people you will ever meet. A real great family. She also does a lot with the staples tuition grants. Thank you Tammy for all you do.

  5. Diane Johnson

    Great post, Dan. Tammy is a caring and passionate inspiration to many! Mercy Learning Center brings together dedicated volunteers like Tammy with women looking to improve themselves through education…the result is hope for our future.