Saturday, April 13, 2013

MOMS Road Trip

I hit the road this morning with T, A and D for a four-hour drive to the MOMS Club Northeast Region Luncheon. The theme was "Momapalooza - MOMS Club Rocks" and each club was encouraged to choose their "favorite decade" and dress appropriately.

We decided to go with an early 70s, hippy sort of thing, and I came up with the theme "Peace, Love and Motherhood," and suggested that we dress to represent each part of the theme.

Peace (D), Love (T), and (me) Motherhood (A - and little N).

Our club's display


Sample crafts

Vintage candy

Our contribution to the basket raffle

Somehow, I also managed to find myself on the program, as one of four guest speakers talking about service, particularly in light of the especially rough year that the Northeast has had. The first two speakers were members from New Jersey whose homes had been severely damaged in Hurricane Sandy. I may be mistaken, but I believe they both received grants through MOMS Club International's Mother-to-Mother fund, which helps members in crisis situations.

The next speaker donated and transported a ton of stuff into New Jersey after the storm, and started a Facebook page specifically for MOMS Club members to coordinate relief efforts.

I was recruited to speak after the regional coordinator asked on Facebook for clubs who'd done fundraising for a memorial playground in Newtown, CT, that MOMS Club is supporting, because "I want to do something with this at the luncheon." I said that we'd raised money, I'm the person in charge of our service projects, and I would be a the luncheon.

Next thing I knew, she was calling me and asking that I talk about that project and why we wanted to help Newtown, and also talk about our other service projects. In part, she wanted to give people an overview of a lot of different kinds of things that clubs can do, and encourage them to "think outside the box." Evidently, we're outside-the-box kinda gals here.

I was the last one to speak, and when I heard the others, I was getting really nervous, but I think I did okay. If I had it to do over, I probably would've come up with a better transition from the first part of the speech about our motivation to service and the Newtown project, to the second part about other specific projects that we've done, but all in all I thought it went well.

Here's my script of the speech, but of course I added a lot of details on the fly.

(Our Club) Service Projects
Northeast Region Conference 4/13/13
Thank you. 
Before I really get into my comments, I want to say that none of the projects that I’m going to talk about would have been possible without a lot of long hours, and hard work, and creative thinking from all of our board members, some of whom are here today, and I’d like just introduce them quickly: 
Our president, D; Treasurer, A and Activities coordinator – and former board member, T. Thank you, ladies.
When Nadine asked me to speak today, one of the things she wanted me to talk about was why our club wanted to raise money for the Newtown community. I really didn’t know what to say. I just thought, why wouldn’t we? 
I guess that’s just how I’m used to MOMS Club members reacting when something like this happens – whether it’s a headline-making tragedy in another state, or a sick kid in our community, or a life-threatening injury in one of our own club families – the first response is always, “What can we do? How can we help?” 
If I may share a personal story - Just a few weeks after I joined the club, we found out that my 3 month old daughter, was about to have open-heart surgery (she's fine now). I told the club about it, to say they weren't going to be seeing us at any activities for a while, and the next thing I knew, I got a call from the Sunshine Committee meal mom about setting up a plan to feed us when we got home from the hospital.  
I told her, "But, I just joined. You don't even know me," and she basically said, "That doesn't matter, you're a member, your baby's having surgery, you’re getting meals.
That should have been my first clue about the kind of club I’d just joined.

This is the sort of thing that I’ve seen over and over from our members. It’s just the nature of our club – and, I’m sure, of yours, as well - to help those in need, whether it’s one member inviting another out to coffee when she’s having a rough time, or providing meals to a member who has a new baby or is dealing with an illness, or raising money for a family in need.

While I, and my club, are honored that I’ve been invited to speak today about some of our service projects, I know that none of us do them for any sort of recognition, but simply because we want to help.

It’s what moms do; somebody has a boo-boo and we want to kiss it and make it all better. While we usually can’t make things “all better” for the beneficiaries of our service projects, maybe we can make things a little bit better or a little bit easier, and we can certainly make a difference. And I think it’s that urge to “fix things” or at least to “make a difference” that motivates us all, especially in a situation like the Newtown tragedy, which left the entire nation feeling so powerless. 
When that happened, by the next day, we were starting to talk about how we could raise money for whatever it was that the local community needed, and by the end of the weekend, we’d decided to hold a “10% night” fundraiser at our local Red Robin restaurant. We put up flyers, put it on Facebook, advertised it in the newspaper and through the local school district, and between the actual Red Robin proceeds and additional direct donations, we were able to send $450 to the memorial playground fund. 
It wasn’t a huge amount of money, but it will make a difference. 
Several of our projects have been put together pretty quickly like that when a need has suddenly arisen, others are annual events that are on the calendar months in advance.  Some of our projects are pretty simple and others have been quite involved and labor-intensive.
In the three years I’ve been on the board, some of our annual projects have included:
·        School supply drive for the local women’s shelter
·        Adopting families through the Salvation Army, providing Christmas dinner and gifts
·        Collecting winter wear for Coats for Kids
·        Making and delivering Valentines cards and candy at a local retirement home
·        Basket Raffle at annual Motherhood Luncheon, to benefit the Mother to Mother Fund

Some other projects that we’ve done are:
·        Three events – Red Robin night, Spaghetti Dinner and helping with a chicken dinner – to benefit a member’s family when her firefighter husband was seriously injured
·        Two yard sales, one to benefit a family with two terminally ill children, and the other for a family whose mom was undergoing cancer treatment
·        Worked with a neighboring club to chalk welcoming and encouraging messages on the sidewalks outside all the schools in our district the night before school started
·        Started a “Tag, You’re It” Kindness Project, doing “random acts of kindness” and leaving cards asking others to pass it on.
·        Cooked a meal for families staying at a nearby Ronald McDonald House
·        Collected donations for: Local Toiletry Bank, food drive, and library book sale
·        Put together “Family Fun” baskets for a family whose father was undergoing cancer treatment, and a member family whose disabled son was recovering from an injury, and a family with a critically ill child
·        Hosted a Home Business Expo to benefit a local Therapeutic Riding Center.
·        Other “dine and donate” events to benefit a family with a disabled child, and a MOMS Club family from Delaware, where one of our former presidents has moved, who’d been in a serious auto accident.
·        Car show and Chicken BBQ to benefit a local family with a child who was undergoing a stem cell transplant. 
Our newest big project this year is one that we totally stole from the Brockport, NY MOMS Club – Where’s Brockport? – A Holiday Giftaway. We collected new and “gently used” gifts, as well as cash to purchase several more new gifts. We then provided free holiday shopping for local Head Start families. The turnout just blew us away;  we distributed over 1500 gifts to 250 children – 190 of whom came through in the first hour. 
As we were getting close to the end of that first hour, I saw a little boy who must have been about seven or eight years old, holding the toy he’d chosen. I heard him say to his mother, “Mama, I thought you said you couldn’t get me anything for Christmas. Did you change your mind?” 
I knelt down and whispered to him, “When Santa dropped these things off, he told me to make sure you got something really good.” 
He just looked at me and said, “Are you Santa?” 
“No,” I said, “But he’s a really good friend of mine.” 
And that. I think that is why we all do service projects. 

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