Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

November 19, 2013

Mom2Mom enhances female connections

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — When Oklahoma native Melissa Hanley moved to Batesville from Greenwood, she recalls, “I longed for relationships with other moms. I think that motherhood is challenging in itself. To move to a new place and not have that connection” with other women can be lonely.

She talked with new friends at Batesville Baptist Church about starting a ministry called Mom2Mom, patterned after one she attended at Emmanuel Church of Greenwood, and they said, “‘Let’s try it here.’”

Two years ago, the nondenominational Mom2Mom was founded in Batesville by Hanley and Hannah Reid, who has moved away. Also on the first leadership team were Shannon McBeath, Brandi Myers, Joan Schornick and daughter Jami Powell. Initially, about 15 women attended.

The group’s goal “is to reach out to moms in our community, encouraging them in their season of life, meeting practical needs, building on mothering skills and fostering healthy relationships in a God-centered environment,” according to the Web site.

Mom2Mom members meet twice a month on Fridays from 9-11 a.m. during the school year at Community Church of Batesville, 103 E. George St. With many women in attendance, sometimes smaller discussion groups led by mentor moms allow members to get to know each other on a more personal basis.

According to Hanley, “I’ve honestly used my social network” to find guest speakers. “I have a ministry background. I’m a preacher’s daughter. My husband was in the ministry before joining the family business,” Pulskamp’s Flooring Plus. “We try to find speakers who will represent what our mission statement is .... I want to teach these women God’s given us this very important role as mother. Anything we can do to nurture that and learn from each other’s mistakes” will be a topic, including mothering skills, marriage and discipline.

While some speakers have been local, others who have travelled here from Greenwood, Carmel, Fishers and Florence, Ky., have received $100 honorariums to pay for gas and their time.

The current leadership team consists of Hanley, now the director; child care director Shannon McBeath; hospitality coordinator Summer Ayres; social events coordinator Jami Powell; and care coordinator Abby Coffey.

The word is starting to get out as the ministry gains popularity. While about 40 in their 20s-50s from not just Batesville, but also Versailles, Rising Sun, Osgood, Metamora, Brookville and Greensburg attend each meeting, 80 women have registered online. A closed Facebook group of members and friends who want to find out more numbers 178.

Child care for meetings is divided into two sections, infants-1 and 2-kindergarten. As the group grows, more child care workers are needed. “We do background checks,” says Hanley, who is hopeful high school or Ivy Tech students studying child development could mentor there.

Because of vacations and so many kids at home, the group’s summer schedule is less frequent. There are no Friday morning gatherings. Instead, members meet once a month during Moms Night Out at various area restaurants and family activities are planned, such as trips to Brookville Lake, Batesville Memorial Pool and parks.

For Moms Nights Out restaurant reservations and meeting child care, Hanley recommends that members RSVP on the Mom2Mom Facebook page.

Now the ministry has two annual social events for couples, a Halloween costume party and Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, slated for Dec. 8. Because it’s just as hard if not harder for men to form friendships, the Oklahoma Baptist University graduate reports some were around the campfire at the October get-together, joking about starting Dad2Dad. “It was cool they were connecting.”

Other extra activities have ranged from the once-a-semester “Minimasterpiece” hands-on art sessions with kids to a mother-daughter spa day.

A $30 per semester donation covers expenses ranging from child care and crafts to kids’ snacks and office supplies. Sometimes there is a charge for a craft or special event. “As we do not want cost to deter anyone from attending, we do have scholarships available,” she notes.

What’s new with Mom2Mom? “We tried an evening gathering” Nov. 5, attended by 48, “which was huge.” The mother of three (Madison, 9; Jackson, 8; and Mason, 4) explains, “We’ve heard from a lot of the working mothers. They complain because they don’t get to come on Friday mornings.” Scheduling more night meetings is “something our leadership team will discuss and plan for the future.”

Via Facebook, Amber McGuire has started a Mom2Mom babysitting exchange, useful for saving money and daytime errands, when babysitters are scarce. Emili Uden has spearheaded an online Pinterest board. “They’ve been sharing ideas for all sorts of stuff,” from decorating to recipes and travel tips for kids.

The club’s progress has been “kind of overwhelming and exciting.” The nonpaid leader says husband Patrick loves her Mom2Mom involvement. “He’s really happy I have a group of friends now. He’s very proud of me for sticking with it.”

She has a few short-term goals for the group. “We’re trying to figure out how we serve the working mother community better … how we can reach out to them. Personally, I would like to be developing my leadership team … how I can encourage them to build their own teams” for smooth successions. Possibly collaborating with Safe Passage and schools, she would like to invite pregnant teenagers to meetings so they can be nurtured by members.

When asked about highlights of forming the ministry, Hanley answers, growing teary-eyed, “Watching what the moms have learned in some of the sessions, the way they’ve applied it to life.”

New member Becky Rak posted to Facebook Nov. 5 how Mom2Mom has helped her personally. “I have felt accepted and included in all things Batesville. The women that I have built friendships with have had a role in making me feel at home here. I really am grateful for this since I had to move away from so many friendships that I cherish. Now I have the new and the old.”

The greatest reward of driving Mom2Mom is seeing members “connect with other moms on their own.” When the director learns a handful have started a play group, “that’s awesome to me ... I’ve given them a platform.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

More about the group Details are available on the Mom2Mom Web site, http://m2mbatesville.wordpress.com; or by contacting director Melissa Hanley at themelissad@me.com or 812-363-5336.