giving back

Support Groups: Heather Fortune Helps Moms With the Mommies Network

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Supporting Moms—If there's only thing that we at Mom It Forward wish our readers knew, it is the power of their roles as mothers. In inverse proportion to its thanklessness, it is a role that is ultimately more important than any other because it involves the careful shaping of souls. Mothers have a unique understanding of the world, and are uniquely positioned to effect change within that world, starting within their family and rippling outward. It must be so; otherwise, there would not be so many resources for them (just a few of which we've featured on our site). The Mommies Network is one such resource, a common-sense, ingeniously-devised support system, and Heather Fortune, one of its founders, is one mom helping others to realize their power.

Most simply, the Mommies Network is a community for moms. It is a national online free 24/7 forum where moms can discuss anything from child-rearing to best family-friendly restaurants. It started with just two moms, Heather and her friend Heidi, who wanted a way to meet other moms without subscribing to expensive mom-n-me activities or committing to strict meeting schedules. As Heather says, "we just wanted to find some other women in similar situations who wanted to chat and get together every now and then. It started out kind of selfishly-motivated." The idea was a good one, though, because over the course of the next few years, a network of more than 90 local groups sprang up across the country. In 2005, an actual 501(c)(3) non-profit organization was formed to support those chapters and their 25,000 members.

Those chapters enrich the Mommies Network community experience by providing opportunities once-a-month for members to get together in real life and develop friendships. As the Mommies Network website says: "We are a reflection of mothers... in the real world. Our members work full time, stay home full time, work part time, represent many races, adopted children, were adopted themselves, are newcomers to the area, are natives to the area, have twins, are happy with one, are single parents, are just beginning their journey as parents and have watched their kids graduate."

They also provide opportunities for members to grow charitably, not just socially. "We are parents in and for the community. We help out our neighbors as much as ourselves through organized fundraisers and other charity events — specifically those focused on providing for parents and their children. Once our communities are a year old, they organize at least two charitable events or drives each year, focused on helping moms, dads and/or kids. Each community also assists members in finding local charitable opportunities via our Volunteer Match Program. It's a great way for everyone to give back to their community while having fun and making a difference in the lives of other moms, dads and kids." Some chapters host "baby showers" where the gifts are donated to a local YMCA; some organize walks for various causes. It's up to them. They have become powerful forces for good in their own rights in their own communities.

Heather says that the growth of the Mommies Network, while helping herself and many other women, has not been without its challenges. Some member moms have tried to smart smaller support groups within the network, for moms in particular circumstances (e.g., stay-at-home, etc.) While the need to identify strongly with moms that are most similar to oneself is understandable, says Heather, the need for members to focus on their most common elements— their love for their children and their desire to improve the world in which they raise them—is greater.

As a mom, how do you stay connected with other moms? What support groups and communities have you joined?

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