I became a member four years ago when my daughter Macy was three months old. Molly Cotton joined about the same time, even though she was only eight weeks pregnant with her first child and not yet showing the slightest sign of a baby bump.
Molly and I quickly became good friends. For one thing, we had both joined for the same reason. My husband, Mike, and I had recently moved from Livermore; Molly and Brad had recently come from Concord. We both had remained strongly connected to close friends in the places we had left and felt detached from our strange new community. We were attracted to MOB as a way of establishing social connections with local residents, creating ties with our new community, and getting to know women who would listen to our complaints and who would weep with us when things were falling apart, laugh with us when they were going good, and would join with us in adult conversations about important topics ranging from beauty products to childhood diseases. Besides that, while she was going to college, Molly had worked as a nanny and was attracted by how much her employer enjoyed being involved in a mother’s club.
Molly and I quickly became heavily involved in club activities and soon became members of the board. After four years of service, Molly is now the club’s co-president (along with Jessica Lopez), and I am vice president. The club has about 100 members and 12 board members. Last year was our busiest year because Molly and I served as co-chairs of the club’s Community Outreach committee. Community outreach is close to the heart of most members. For one thing, we are willing to do whatever we can to maintain Brentwood’s status as a good place to live and raise a family.
We fund MOB’s Community Outreach projects through contributions gathered at an annual Mother’s Day Brunch, which is a gala affair that includes a fine meal, raffle prizes, and a silent auction. Board members solicit contributions for the prizes and auction items. We typically raise about $6,000. Two years ago, we received our 501(c)(3) tax-free status, which made it much easier to ask for contributions.
The club conducts two major outreach projects each year. Last month was our annual Turkey Drive. We purchased 80 turkeys from Food Maxx, and created a Thanksgiving Dinner kit with all the trimmings including a pumpkin pie for dessert. We delivered the meals to our two Head Start preschools — with a dinner for every family in each school. The administrators then delivered them to the families. Head Start is a wonderful government funded program for underprivileged children. It feels good to strengthen the administrators’ relationship with their students and families by personally providing them a Thanksgiving dinner.
“. . . when they hear about what we are and what we do, who wouldn’t want to investigate membership and the opportunity to become involved in so many ways of giving back to the community and to other moms?”
Our other major community outreach is an Adopt-A-Family holiday project. The club “adopts” 11 families — one from each of the eight elementary and three middle schools. The principal in each school identifies a family going through a difficult period of time. Each family member is presented with a form in which they list two needs and two wants. For example, the want of one family who had survived a horrible automobile accident was to receive scholarship funds to pay the expenses for their daughter to go on a trip with her school class. Even though the recipients are anonymous, they know that the Mothers of Brentwood donated the gifts. The parents who requested the scholarship funds for their daughter subsequently were invited to be guest speakers at our brunch and shared with us what a wonderful difference our intervention had made to the family’s holiday happiness. A couple of years ago, a young boy who was an invalid because of a medical condition said his “want” was an X-box, which we gladly supplied, together with some popular games.
Last year we fulfilled every wish and every want on every list. All the items were new. Contributions from the fundraiser brunch wouldn’t have been sufficient to cover the cost. However, we created a spreadsheet listing all the requested items in order to give members opportunities to personally purchase any items before we use any of the fund’s money. Many of our moms love to go shopping with their children to purchase items; they use the experience as an example for their children of giving back to people in need. Some moms are really generous during these shopping trips and purchase a number of items from the list.
After members brought in their donated items, the board members went shopping for the remaining items still on the spreadsheet using the funds from the Mother’s Day fundraiser. We then brought the gifts to the school district’s office where we handed them off to the 11 principals who met with us. The principals delivered the gifts to the parents who could then wrap them and put them under the tree for Christmas morning. Only the principals are aware of the recipient’s identities to preserve their dignity.
Every year we try to do something for the school district since, after all, it’s where our kids go to school. In the past we had a scholarship fund and supplied backpacks filled with school supplies. It turned out that other organizations were supplying backpacks, so this year we met with the district’s Student Services Director, Chris Calabrese, to learn what the school district actually needs. It turned out that they needed paper for the printers, so this year purchasing reams of paper has become our project.
Last October we had our first annual “Socktober Drive.” We had containers at several local businesses around town giving people opportunities to donate a new pair of socks. We collected more than 200 pairs that are helping to keep feet warm at Shephard’s Gate.
Of course, we channel our giving back energies in support of our own members. Some money from the dues goes into a “Helping Hands” fund that provides meals for moms who have recently given birth or adopted a new family member. We also have a Family-to-Family fund that provides assistance for members going through a crisis. Last month we were able to sponsor a Holiday Bazaar at Harvest Park Bowl to raise funds for the Family-to-Family account. Our costs were minimized by the fact that Harvest Park Bowl, one of our sponsors, contributed use of the facilities at no charge.
WE ARE TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER
The Mothers of Brentwood is a group of women actively supporting each other. We schedule playdates at various locations every Tuesday and Friday, plus other days when the women have ad hoc meet-ups. During fair weather we often have these at a local park. We also use locations donated by sponsors. For example, Laura, offers her Created By You facilities for play dates. She will allow the moms and kids to do arts and crafts. Members sometimes offer their homes for playdate meet-ups.
We also have annual events including an Easter-time Spring Fling that includes an egg hunt and Easter bunny. One of our members is a professional photographer, Melissa van Ruiten. She takes pictures and uploads them to our Facebook page, so each family has a high quality family photo as a souvenir of the event. Every August, moms go on an annual wine trip; this year we went to Sacramento’s Old Sugar Mill. Last month a wonderful “Tired Mom” scarecrow was one of Brentwood’s Scarecrows in the Park. A number of us walked in the holiday parade. At the end of the year we have a moms-only Holiday Party. We also sponsor a major end-of-the-year party. This year the event was at Apple Hill Park. Kids and families enjoyed the Rockabilly Balloon Bender, The Tumble Time bus, and Yogurt Pizzazz.
We struggle to counter the common misconception that the MOB is only for stay-at-home moms. In fact, a number of our members hold down 9 to 5 jobs. They are able to meet with other moms at monthly Mom’s Night Out events, which are held at local places. Last October’s Night Out featured Belly Dancing lessons. During the September Mom’s Night Out we learned some basic martial arts maneuvers. Other months have included trivia parties and movie theater events. On a particularly memorable month we all went on a ghost tour. Working mothers can be with other moms by joining the Bunco Group, the Sunday Funday Brunch group, the Pinterest crafting group, or the Book Club.
Mothers of Brentwood has become a vital force in my own life. We moved to Brentwood over my strong objections. For a while I wished we could go back to Livermore. Molly felt the same way about Concord. The MOB changed all that for us. We met and made good friends with some amazing women — some of them have become friends-for-life. Our children have become close friends with a number of great kids. Members’ spouses even become friends with each other. Some of the dads play softball together.
Molly hangs out sometimes at the little park near her house. She meets other moms and, of course, before long Mothers of Brentwood comes up as a topic of discussion. Molly has naturally become an effective recruiter. After all, when they hear about what we are and what we do, who wouldn’t want to investigate membership and the opportunity to become involved in so many ways of giving back to the community and to other moms?