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Reflections from the New Moms President

At the beginning of March this year New Moms was deeply engaged in strategic planning for the future. Excited about the possibilities ahead of us to broaden our reach and serve more young moms and children, we were crafting a plan to guide us on the journey for the next five years.

Of course, we all know how this story goes: within days we realized we needed to suspend all but essential in-person operations to ensure the health and safety of our participants and staff. The new trajectory ahead of us rapidly shifted to include navigating the implications of COVID-19 and the economic challenges that come with the massive shutdown in Chicago.

We’ve had to pause on our focus on long-term growth for the moment, and instead have poured everything into supporting young families as they navigate this hard and scary time:

  • Our brave team has shown up relentlessly (and in appropriate PPE) to coach and support residents in our housing program, despite the shutdown.
  • In addition to our virtual support programs, we’ve expanded our efforts to ensure that young moms have the baby essentials like diapers and wipes that they need but are having trouble accessing.
  • And we’ve continued to coach and train young moms in our Job Training program, ensuring they have skills and income as they work toward permanent employment. In June, our team started again making candles at Bright Endeavors, spaced out on the production floor and suited up in PPE.

I can’t share about the past five months without also recounting the deep and wonderful ways the New Moms community has stepped up to support our COVID-19 response:

  • Our donors have been extra generous, and their financial support will help us cover the increased expenses the pandemic brought our way.
  • Volunteers made masks and folks sent diapers, wipes, and formula to us to distribute.
  • Partner agencies like Lakeview Pantry and VOCEL jumped to collectively ensure families had enough food to eat and the other basic resources they needed.
  • And your notes of encouragement and prayers bolstered our spirits as we walked through this wild time.

We’re so grateful for you.

We know we have a long road ahead as we continue to deal with the implications of COVID-19. While New Moms programs continue, we’re now sending young moms out into a world that is even harder: the stalling economy has meant many of our young moms have lost their jobs, and many more are at risk of losing their livelihoods. The systemic racism and economic strain that has plagued our community for generations disproportionately impacts young moms of color and the pandemic has only increased these pressures.

Being a young mom is challenging on a good day, but the world is even harder now.

So, what do we do?

Like many of you, we’re focused on what’s right in front of us: do what we can, where we are.

For us, this means recognizing the systemic inequities that require our attention and simultaneously meeting the here-and-now needs of young families. We are advocating for resources to go to those most in need. And, we are exploring how the current crisis opens new opportunities for inclusive employment, stable housing, and technology to aid our participants.

We’ll get back to our long-range planning soon enough. But for now, we’re pushing on this moment to be one of positive change in our organization, our community, and our country for young moms and their children. We’re working hard and praying hard. The work of New Moms is even more imperative now in the context of all that is happening in our world. If you support New Moms, I believe it’s because you, like us, want young moms to thrive in their communities. We’re grateful to have you alongside us and we continue to need your help as we face these challenges this year.

We’re in this together, because together we all thrive.

May we all find courage and hope as we navigate this together.

Laura Zumdahl, Ph.D.
President & CEO