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Letter: Greenwich Moms Flock to Help Others

GREENWICH, Conn. — The Daily Greenwich.com accepts signed, original letters to the editor. Letters may be emailed to letters @the daily greenwich.com .

To the Editor,

Last spring, I started an organization called Mothers for Others – partly because I saw a need not being addressed in Greenwich – what to do with the tremendous amount of “stuff” families in our area accumulate. The organization is dedicated to collecting gently used clothing, toys and baby equipment. Once collected, we then redistribute the items to needy families in Greenwich, Port Chester and Stamford. Since we started, we have helped hundreds of local families and have even sent surplus donations to people in need in Afghanistan, Colombia, Haiti and reservations in South Dakota.

We have had over 100 volunteers, mostly moms, teens and children. Donations flood into our storage space. Local preschools and schools hold donation drives on our behalf, and businesses and organizations donate diapers, car seats and money. Senior Minister of Second Congregational Church Maxwell Grant says, “The match between the generosity of local families and the reality of local need has been powerful. But even so, I don’t think anyone saw Mothers for Others growing this big, this quickly.”

The overwhelming success of this young organization begs the question: Why has the support been so amazing? Why has the Greenwich community embraced the concept of a charitable organization such as this and flocked to help it continue to grow? And why are the majority of our volunteers mothers and their children?

Part of our success is based upon need – no other organization in town does what we do. Mothers for Others is the only local organization that solely collects these items (specifically baby equipment and toys) and then turns around and redistributes them to local families. One mother told me, “I am so glad there is a place I can get rid of all of this stuff. No other place around here will take it!” Because Mothers for Others is centrally located in Greenwich at Second Congregational Church (at the Post Road and Maple Avenue), it is easy for people to drop off donations and easy for families who are receiving those items to come and pick them up.

But this oversimplifies the issue. Something deeper is going on – why do these mothers come to volunteer? Why do they bring their children to help out?  Why are people so generous with their time and energy, as well as the beautiful items they donate to our cause?

While need is part of its success, I believe that the philosophy behind Mothers for Others resonates within the Greenwich population. We provide an easy way for people to reach out and help those less fortunate – whether it’s through donating items or donating time and effort.

People in Greenwich want to help and they want to make a difference. Regardless of our self-centered and overly managed lives, many in our community truly believe they are lucky, blessed and fortunate – and they want to give back and help those less fortunate than themselves. But people in Greenwich are realists and they want to see their help have an impact – they want to be sure that their efforts are actually working. To the extent they can share this experience with their children – all the better.

We have a group of women who volunteer every Wednesday morning, and during our distribution periods these numbers grow. Whether it's helping to sort clothing, cleaning toys or equipment or carrying donated items to families who receive them, one hour of their time can have an impact. Many of our volunteers bring their babies and toddlers – their children sit in one of our donated swings or play with our donated toys, while their mothers are busy sorting clothes. Our volunteers see that their help is simple and that they are making a difference – making the job of volunteering easy and rewarding.

But it isn’t just the ease of volunteering that makes Mothers for Others attractive.  During our distribution periods, being a volunteer when the families come to pick up their donations can make a huge difference. And people find it the most rewarding part of all the work that we do. Mothers who volunteer with their children are meeting the families who are receiving their donations and they are directly reaching out to people in their community. Many of the families receiving the items speak only Spanish. Many of our volunteers also speak Spanish – helping to bridge the understanding between one another.

At our distribution two weeks ago, one boy, Jorge, came with his mother, and three siblings to volunteer. His mother asked him to speak Spanish with a little boy who came with his family to pick up donations. Jorge took the little boy by the hand. They went to the toy room and together picked out a toy for the little boy to bring home. The little boy was so thrilled, he gave Jorge a big hug before he left. Jorge went and told his mom – he had helped make the little boy happy. What a day!

These types of incidents are not uncommon – children joining their moms, all volunteering for the afternoon to help other local families pick out items they need and helping them bring them to the car and ultimately their homes. Cindy Saleeby, who has been with the organization since its inception, says, “It’s a situation where everyone wins – people coming together for a common purpose – the volunteers as well as the families that are receiving the donations.”

A mom said, “I want my children to come (and volunteer) so they can thank God for what they have as they see how lucky they are. Mothers for Others gives them a chance to discover the feeling you get after you help out those in need."

Another mom told me that when she was at the distribution last week, she was helping a teenage mother pick out clothes for her newborn baby. “I explained to her that even though her baby was 6 months old, if she wanted to get a coat for next winter, she should pick out a size 12 to 18 months, because the baby would be bigger by then. It never occurred to her to get a bigger size – she herself is still a kid. I was so glad I could help her with such simple advice!”

People who drop off donations are also happy that their used items are not ending up in the garbage (at least, not yet). They know the things they are donating are going to a real person. If you asked, I could probably tell who ended up receiving the stroller, high chair or Baby Bjorn that you donated to our organization.

The urge to help isn’t just for those who are fortunate. Last week, one of the mothers who picked up donations for her family asked if she could come back and help. Last year, a woman who lives in Armstrong Court contacted us and asked if she could donate her double stroller. She said years ago when she was struggling, someone helped her. She wanted to give back to someone who might also need help. When we went to pick up the stroller at her house (she works 12-hour days and couldn’t drop it off), we left a bag of clothes for her twin 8-year-old daughters. It seemed like a fair trade.

In addition to all of the volunteers, organizations throughout town have stepped in to play a huge part of the organization’s success. Partnering with Family Centers Inc. and Greenwich Social Services, Mothers for Others is able to identify the local families that need help. The Outreach Committee of Second Congregational Church of Greenwich provides us with space and has made substantial monetary contributions to help the organization get off the ground. The Junior League of Greenwich gave the organization a grant of $2,000 to help pay for capital costs and supplies, and its Done in a Day Committee brought volunteers to help set up for the distribution day. The Greenwich Silver Shield Association donated infant car seats to all the families that requested them. Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Shop-Rite and Costco all donated money and diapers. Even the Bagel Shop in Old Greenwich provided the bagels to feed our hungry volunteers!

I am not entirely sure why we are such a success, but a lot of it has to do with our roles as mothers – helping to nurture and care for others. One volunteer summed up her experience. “Personally, I do this because I find it truly fulfilling to give ANONYMOUSLY and SILENTLY – my personal time for others, not expecting anything in return. I honestly feel it's a blessing to feel that way and I want to pass it on to my children.”

Mothers and their families working together to help others in their community – this is what we do at Mothers for Others. What a perfect reason to honor those mothers this Sunday.

Karen Giannuzzi

Founder of Mothers for Others

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