New Moms opened the doors to its Oak Park facility in March 2019, providing housing to 18 families through Clare Place and operating as a resource in parenting education and support, home parent coaching and doula services to young mothers.
The Kitchen Walk, an annual house tour featuring designer kitchens in Oak Park and River Forest, was a big fundraiser for New Moms, but due to the pandemic, the walk had to be cancelled for the second year in a row.
“Without the Kitchen Walk, we are missing a big connection with the community,” said Bonnie Andorka, New Moms’ donor relations event manager.
The need for support is even greater due to the pandemic. With an increase in families experiencing homelessness, the need for safe and stable housing in the community continues to grow.
New Moms transitioned its programming to a virtual format during the pandemic, continuing to offer support to young families, and the 18 apartments at Clare Place are full.
“Our work at New Moms is about partnering with young moms and being a catalyst to their hard work and ultimate success,” said Dr. Laura Zumdahl, president and CEO of New Moms. “Too often, young families face the pressures of poverty and scarcity without a support system. New Moms stands in that space with them, helping to relieve that pressure so they can take steps to accomplish their goals and fulfill their greatest potential.”
Summaira Chapman has been living at Clare Place for the past year and a half and says that support system has been helpful incredibly helpful as she raises her 2-year-old son, Loyalty. She meets frequently with Family Support Specialist Paula Ciccarone.
“Paula helps me with work, school and personal issues,” Chapman said. “I can call her anytime. She’s like a mentor to me. I’m close to her.”
Ciccarone says she coaches young moms like Chapman, directing them to resources and providing support.
“I partner with our families as they establish stability in their lives and take powerful first steps to pursue their dreams,” Ciccarone said. “Most of our young moms are setting goals focused on education, career development, parenting and housing. I coach them to believe in themselves and reach their goals and offer resources and support that help them be successful.”
Chapman utilizes New Moms’ employment networking resources, which include resume help and connections to job listings. Family Support Specialist Rachel Guerrero also meets regularly with the residents.
“[Guerrero] goes over things like appropriate discipline, and helps us with skills and development for our children,” Chapman said.
For Chapman, New Moms has been invaluable helping her gain her footing as a mother. She calls the community a great stepping-stone to where she is going.
In a typical year, Andorka would be busy overseeing all of the details of the Kitchen Walk. She misses the engagement the walk offered, but she says that the community has really stepped up to offer support in other ways.
First United Church of Oak Park has hosted donation drives for move-in kits, and the OPRF Community Foundation provided a COVID relief grant. Many others in the community have offered financial support.
“People welcomed us so incredibly,” Andorka said. “Just a few examples are Oak Park Apartments providing move-in baskets for every apartment and donating financial support. The Daly Bagel has given us their bagels and been an employment partner. We had a neighboring family who used to help provide in-person meals for our group meetings.
“When the pandemic made that impossible, they went to Sugar Beet Co-op and got every household a pizza making kit so they could still have a fun meal when groups weren’t meeting in person.”
Help New Moms Celebrate Mother’s Day this year
New Moms asks the community to join them this Mother’s Day in recognizing the important work moms do for their families and their wider community.
You can tell mothers within their programs as well as the mother figures in your life how grateful you are for their commitment, courage, and compassion. Tell them, “We see how much you love your kids. We see how dedicated you are to furthering your education. We see the barriers and challenges you face every day.”
This is how you can remind moms that they matter:
- Donate $25 or more and write a note of appreciation and recognition for the moms in New Moms’ programs. New Moms will print the notes and post them in the windows at the Transformation Center for families to see. Donate by May 5 to make sure your note is included.
- Donate $100 or more and, in addition to writing a note for moms at New Moms, you can also send a Bright Endeavors candle to a mother in your life. Donate by April 30 to make sure the candle arrives on time for Mother’s Day.
• To make a donation, click here.
Since opening its doors, New Moms in Oak Park and Clare Place has offered Family Support Services to 155 young moms and their 217 children. Nineteen young moms and their 28 children have received housing at Clare Place.
Mothers like Chapman continue to be the focus of New Moms. Events like Coffee Chats cover specific topics and attendance is free. In honor of Black Maternal Health Week, which is April 11-17, the Coffee Chat on Wednesday April 14 at 10 a.m. will focus on Black Maternal Health.
To join and discuss the unique challenges that Black pregnant women and new moms face because of systemic racism in healthcare, look for details and registration here.