New Associated Churches program helping new mothers “get through difficult times”

Since 1944, Associated Churches has offered services and programming to families in need, helping them with necessities, fostering healthy children and youth development, providing physical and emotional support, teaching about healthy relationships, and providing the groundwork for long-term self-sufficiency.

Throughout the years, the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation has supported the work of Associated Churches with over $140,000 in grant funding, primarily for The Landing and A Baby’s Closet programs, but recently extended that support to the agency’s newest endeavor, Journey Beside Mothers.

The program started in January of 2021 under the leadership of Julie Reece, Journey Beside Mothers coordinator. “The idea for Journey Beside Mothers came when I worked as a nurse home visitor,” explains Reece. “I loved that work, but I also saw the need for mothers to have a different kind of support. I saw that these moms also needed practical support because they didn’t have people in their lives who were all that helpful.”

The program operates with the help of volunteer mentors who are trained before they are matched with a mom and have monthly meetings with the other mentors where they can come together, learn, and support each other. Over the past year, Journey Beside Mothers has had 15 mother and mentor matches. “Some have been pretty short-term, but others have been more long-term. At this point, we don’t have a limit on the amount of time for matches,” says Reece.

Unlike other programs with a set curriculum, Journey Beside Mothers first considers the needs of the mothers. “Often, we’ll ask the moms, ‘What kind of help do you think you would like?’ and they often have a hard time telling you,” shares Reece. “So, we come in with a list of things we can do. One of those things is just sitting with you and talking while having coffee or tea. We’re just hoping to come alongside you and support you.”

Much of the program’s success comes from its relationships with the mothers and its proximity to A Baby’s Closet, Associated Churches’ program that helps provide essential baby items to families in need. “When I get mothers from A Baby’s Closet, there’s usually already a face-to-face interaction,” says Reece. “So, when I talk to them about Journey Beside Mothers, there’s already a level of trust. This program has been a good fit with A Baby’s Closet.”

Journey Beside Mothers has plans to expand its efforts by having teen mom gatherings and offering structured playgroups with some of the mothers and mentors, to offer practical support always in mind. “There have been some excellent relationships between the mothers and mentors,” says Reece. “I feel like it’s helping us grow and get through some difficult times.”