Moms Helping Moms went from the garage to trailer trucks
By Tara Ryazansky
Photos courtesy of Moms Helping Moms
Moms Helping Moms is a nonprofit celebrating 10 years of helping families in need in Hoboken and beyond.
“When my daughter was probably about a month old, I was rocking her to sleep, and I was reading an article,” Founder and Co-Executive Director Bridget Cutler recalls. “It was about a
mother who gave her daughter up for adoption because ‘she could no longer stand hearing her cry from hunger.’ I’m sitting here with my new baby, and it’s such a beautiful moment, and I knew that I could do something to help families like this.”
At that time Cutler had recently left a career in finance to earn her Master’s degree, and she had been thinking of seeking volunteer opportunities. Initially, Cutler only wanted to collect items like diapers, formula, and gently-used baby gear for families in need.
“I’m the youngest of five kids. I had a lot of hand-me-downs from my nieces and nephews,” she says. “On my husband’s side, we had the first grandchild. We were getting a deluge of presents, and I had more than I needed for this one baby.” Would her mom friends pitch in?
“I reached out, and they did have things. It started with me taking up this collection.” GARAGE BAND
Cutler’s Hoboken garage became the Moms Helping Moms unofficial headquarters.
One friend happy to donate was Megan Deaton, a mom of twins. “I had been home with two babies over a very snowy winter and honestly was sort of losing my mind,” Deaton says. “I was grateful that I had a strong support system, and I had the resources to buy diapers and clothing and formula. When Bridget was looking for diapers and supplies, I jumped on it. She came to my door to pick up some stuff, and I said, ‘Let me know if you ever need some help,’ and she said, ‘Yes, please.’”
Deaton is now Co-Executive Director of Moms Helping Moms. WEALTH GAP
“It was such a nice thing for these families to give their things away and know that it would go to a baby who needed it,” Cutler says.
“In Hoboken, there’s a large gap between the wealthy and those in need,” Deaton says. “People loved that we were going to take their old pack-and-play that was perfectly good and get it to a family that needed it.”
The “drives” grew from small events in Cutler’s garage to large-scale giveaways in Hoboken schools and gyms.
“The city of Hoboken got involved after a couple of months,” Cutler says. “They would take care of inviting guests, working through the housing authority.”
The moms stored baby essentials in the garage, in a small storage unit, the trunks of their cars, and in their apartments.
It wasn’t just the organization that was outgrowing Hoboken.
“We all ended up getting pregnant a second time, except Megan; she already had her two,” Cutler says, referring to herself, Jerusha Oleksiuk, and Jackie McCormack who are both on the board of directors of the organization. “We all came out to the suburbs, but we were still close to each other.”
They appreciated the newfound space, but they missed Hoboken.
“I miss the mom-networking,” Deaton says. “The suburbs are fabulous, but there was a sense of community among moms and dads and families in Hoboken.”
Cutler misses the restaurants, being able to walk everywhere, and the people. “When we were in Hoboken, not only did we have these mom friends, but we became close with some of these families. We watched these babies grow up. We knew their stories. This one baby was born like five months premature or something insane like that. His mom would come to the drives with him. We got to see him become this pudgy little toddler.” LOADING DOCK
“We still weren’t a nonprofit,” Cutler says. “We were just a grassroots organization.” They started setting up their 501c3 before Cutler was chosen as a CNN Hero in 2013. “That was what gave us our seed money to turn this into the beginnings of what it is today.”
“That CNN spot got us enough donations and enough attention that we were able to get our first office,” Deaton says. “We set it up like a little store, so we could let families come in. We have since outgrown that. We just moved into a space in Warren Township. It has a loading dock, which is a big deal because the loading dock means that big trucks of diapers can be donated. We can get big donations from brands like Huggies.”
The group still provides items like car seats and strollers, but the emphasis in on diapers.
“Diaper need is the lack of a sufficient supply of diapers to keep your baby dry, safe, and healthy,” Cutler says.
Diaper need subjects babies to rashes and infections, but Cutler says, “Not having diapers is actually keeping families out of work. In order to use a childcare facility, even if it’s a subsidized childcare facility, you need diapers. If you can’t show up with a days’ worth of diapers, then your baby cannot go to childcare that day, and if your baby can’t go to childcare, then you can’t look for a job or go to work, you can’t do school, you can’t do anything. We’re giving a family diapers, and that is getting more people into the workforce. Whatever you believe in and what your political views are, that’s something that everybody should want. We can accomplish that without a ton of resources.”
Moms Helping Moms and the city of Hoboken participated in Period Poverty Awareness Week May 24 through 30.
“Period products have been a natural progression for a lot of diaper banks,” Deaton says. “It’s very similar to diaper need because it can keep menstruating people from attending work or school.”
Cutler says, “I think there’s a lot of taboo around talking about it. A teenage girl or even a grown woman might have trouble saying that they can’t do something because they don’t have a pad or a tampon. We’ve shifted our focus toward advocacy.”
The goal is to make essential products readily available. “In the next few years, we’re hoping to get legislation passed,” Cutler says.
For now, Moms Helping Moms seeks volunteers and collections, offering online kits for diaper drives. “I’m in the process of also putting up a kit for a period supply drive,” Deaton says.
The group has registered as an official charity in the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon and Half Marathon and 5K and seeks runners.
The organization provides items to Hudson County organizations like AngelaCARES, Inc., Black Interests Team Enterprises, HOPES CAP, Inc, York Street Project, and Partnership for Maternal and Child Health.
Hoboken still supports Moms Helping Moms through diaper drives and donations. During the pandemic, the warehouse was open for donations and staff but closed to volunteers. It is again open for volunteers, and the group always needs them.
The need for diapers was great during the pandemic, and Moms Helping Moms met that need.
At the 10-year mark, Cutler’s proud of what Moms Helping Moms has accomplished. She says, “I get a little bit emotional about it.”—07030