Barbara Hachmann wanted to get involved in a cause that she deemed valuable and that lined up with her beliefs when she retired from her job after more than 30 years as a psychologist in the Bethpage Union Free School District in 2008.
"Working with children, you realize the way they view the world," said Hachmann, of Manhasset. "It's very scary to them when things happen around them that they don't understand."
A friend on the board of directors for Hugs Across America, a nonprofit organization that delivers teddy bears to children in crisis, told Hachmann about the organization and invited her to a board meeting. When it was over, Sue Lucarelli, the group's founder and also a Manhasset resident, asked Hachmann whether she'd like to join the board.
"I just thought it was a perfect fit for who I am and what I was doing for my whole life," Hachmann said.
She records minutes for the organization and helps out with fundraisers. One of her projects is helping organize the annual Christmas concert by students at the Music Institute of Long Island. The concert benefits Hugs Across America, which uses the proceeds to purchase bears.
Hachmann recently volunteered at another of the group's annual fundraisers, the Teddy Bear Picnic held at the Community Reformed Church at Manhasset, and helped children stuff bears. Each child made a bear and was told another one would be donated to a child in trauma -- a lesson that Hachmann said helps teach them empathy and compassion for others. The bears, she added, reduce children's stress and teach them to soothe themselves.
"It's just a really great organization," Hachmann said. "Who wouldn't be happy giving a teddy bear to a child and seeing their face light up?"