Compiled by Sarah Davin
Flowers, chocolates, and brunches may seem like great gifts for Mother’s Day, but for actual struggling mothers, what truly useful support can we give them and their families? Most mothers work for a living, and some are trying to raise their children on their own or in a setting that is anything but supportive.
For Kody Lyon, president-elect of the Montpelier Rotary Club, the issue is an important one, and she is personally involved in many efforts to support struggling mothers, including volunteering as a “postpartum angel.” In a conversation with The Bridge, she generously provided some perspective and insight into ways someone can get involved in helping local organizations help children, families, and mothers in need.
The Bridge: Why did the board of the Montpelier Rotary Club decide that supporting mothers in need was a cause to focus on?
Kody Lyon: It was about thinking about the demographics of our area and what demographic struggled the most. Mothers, families, and children are the ones who are affected the most by change and probably need the most support out of anyone. Of course we want to support other organizations as much as possible, however we wanted to make a greater impact and felt that the best way to do that was by supporting individuals.
What resources can you recommend that assist mothers in need?
Lyon: One of the beneficiaries of our Mud Season Charity Raffle is Good Beginnings of Central Vermont. It is an organization which supports families and newborns during the first three to six months of the newborn’s life. There is social support, some light financial support in the form of an emergency fund, but it is really an advocacy and support organization. The mission of Good Beginnings is to provide support to families to prevent postpartum depression. So, the volunteers called postpartum angels may go into the home and sit and talk with the mother for three hours so she can have some social interaction outside of the baby. We can do this with the father as well. Most men won’t admit it, but postpartum depression can affect them, too. Men can also feel isolated if they are the primary caregiver for the baby.
Another beneficiary of our raffle is the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. It may be on the darker side of support to talk about, and a lot of people are afraid to talk about it, but it directly affects families. Statistics show that children who are in homes with domestic and sexual violence carry that with them throughout their lives if not dealt with at an early age, if they don’t have the resources or support to cope with and try to work through it via therapy. This is another organization that is directly affecting children, families, and mothers. The Vermont Network is the mothership of all of these different organizations throughout Vermont that support individuals facing domestic or sexual violence and those who are domestically or sexually violent towards others. They try to help by directing them towards the right therapy or rehabilitation. There are various ways they try to help either side of the situation.
Five years ago, one of our rotary club members and another past member of the club started a project together called the Backpack Program. We partnered with the Union Elementary School to help children who have been labeled “in need.” I believe that if they qualify for hot lunches at school, then they qualify for the Backpack Program. Basically, it is more than likely that these children won’t make it through the weekend without a nutritional meal. Friday might be their last really nutritious meal before Monday comes. Every couple of weeks, we pack over 60 bags for 60-plus children, 60-plus families, receiving these backpacks every two weeks. It is a grocery bag full of non-perishable food, and it gets sent home with the kids every two weeks. We’ve seen a lot of positive reactions from all of this, and the number of children being served has grown throughout the years.
If someone wanted to get out there and help, how could they show their support for local mothers? Are there any volunteer opportunities available?
Lyon: I’m not sure if there are volunteer opportunities with the Vermont Network because there is a lot of privacy involved because domestic and sexual violence is such a sensitive topic.
As far as Good Beginnings goes, they have the postpartum angels. They’re volunteers. Once you’ve been with them for six months, you can go up to the hospital and hold babies that are withdrawing from opioids. There are both of those avenues once you become a volunteer with Good Beginnings. They also need volunteers for the events they do as well. I think anyone who is interested could go to their website, goodbeginningscentralvermont.org, you can fill out an application to volunteer online and someone will be contact you within a week.
The Rotary Club meets every two weeks to pack the bags, usually on a Wednesday, at Westview Meadows around 4:30 pm, we are always looking for volunteers to pack the little bags for the kids at Union Elementary. We would love the help. If you are interested, call me at 229-5728.
Are there any changes or improvements to any of the local or state supports you would like to see?
Lyon: Oh, good lord. I see a lot of struggle for daycare services. It adds another level of stress, trying to decide where their kid is going to go and if they are going to be able to afford it. It makes having a very stressful thing when it should be a very joyful thing. If there are ways or grants that could be put in place to reduce the price of daycare for families, that would be amazing and a weight off of so many shoulders.
When we think of Mother’s Day we think of flowers, but are their things the community can do for mothers that might be more helpful?
Lyon: Getting flowers is nice and thoughtful, and probably heartwarming, but at the same time, moms need 30 to 60 minutes to themselves, if only to breathe, take a shower, and feel like it’s their life again. A lot of men take that for granted with their wives. If there is something a man can do, it’s give your wife a night off, or give your partner a night off. Even if your just a friend to a single mother, give her the night off, or a couple of days after Mother’s Day, so she can have some time to herself. That’s the biggest thing people forget since mothers are so attached to their children because their children need them that they put their own needs on the backburner.