It was an unofficial Mother’s Day on a recent steamy Friday afternoon at St. Margaret’s Park.
Moms of various ethnicities sat at tables covered with plastic cloths in the fluorescent-lit basement of the Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority community.
Toddlers and preschoolers squealed as they pushed toy cars. Snippets of different languages floated in the air as women chatted, sipping cold sodas while monitoring their little ones.
The female residents of St. Margaret’s Park and neighboring Juniper Gardens, two of seven Section 8 communities under the jurisdiction of the Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority, were gathered for a pizza lunch and the debut of the expanded Mother’s Market in late August.
Stocked with everything from baby powder to 30 pounds of formula to enough soap for 5,500 loads of laundry and more, the store was established last year at Juniper Gardens and made possible through Project 39 — a group of mothers with plenty wanting to help fellow mothers in need.
The brainchild of Angie Davids of Leawood, Project 39 raised money and donations at its second annual Mother of All Happy Hours in May.
More than 40 hosts held 37 simultaneous parties where guests brought baby necessities to benefit The Family Conservancy, a 133-year-old nonprofit that began in Wyandotte County as The Provident Association with the mission of supporting families and children in pursuit of stability and happy lives.
“This year we doubled the number of parties,” said Davids, director of marketing at YRC Freight. “The support we received and continue to receive is amazing.”
Davids was approaching her 40th birthday several years ago when she hatched the idea of an organization with a simple goal: moms helping moms.
The other founding members of Project 39 — Leawood residents Jennifer Bedell, Lisa Foley and Angie Smith — agreed on a mantra of “simply giving.”
“We’re all busy with kids, jobs, philanthropic commitments,” said Davids, who met the other moms through professional and kids’ activities. “It made sense to do something big, but with a simple model.”
The quartet of moms came up with the idea of private happy hours to be held on one night across the city.
“We called friends and asked them to host parties or attend one,” said Smith. “Everyone was excited to do something very tangible.”
The Family Conservancy was the exact type of benefactor Project 39 envisioned.
“It’s an organization that focuses on helping families and children achieve a lifetime of success,” said Bedell, a graphic designer.
The 2013 Project 39 Mother of All Happy Hours increased donations of goods and cash across the board. Last year, 5,486 diapers were collected; this year, 17,000 diapers were received for the Mother’s Market.
In fact, baby wipes, diaper bags and laundry soap donations grew by more than 200 percent. The Mother’s Market was moved to St. Margaret’s to accommodate the increased donations.
“The women also raised $7,400 in cash,” said Diandra Meyers, marketing events manager for The Family Conservancy. “Their energy and compassion for moms who don’t have the resources they do is inspiring.”
Sabrina Boyd, parent education coordinator of the Healthy Parents, Healthy Kids Program at The Family Conservancy, conducts parenting classes at St. Margaret’s Park and Juniper Gardens.
Mothers who attend the program are rewarded with points for redemption at the Mother’s Market.
Known as Miss Sabrina to women in the communities, Boyd teaches the Five Protective Factors from the internationally recognized Strengthening Families Program.
“I help mothers, and fathers if they’re present, understand what it takes to have a strong family foundation,” said Boyd. “The Five Protective Factors include parent resilience; knowledge of parenting and child development; social and emotional competence of children; emotional and concrete family support; and having basic needs met in times of crisis.”
The founding members of Project 39 beamed as they watched mothers shop for their children.
“This is so gratifying, to see our idea come to fruition and grow,” said Foley, owner of Foley Insurance Solutions.
Several expectant moms stood in front of racks displaying new and gently used pink and blue baby clothes. They selected tiny brightly colored onesies, sweaters and frilly dresses, carefully matching outfits with shoes, socks and hair bows from baskets brimming with accessories.
A few moms picked up boxes of diapers from a long row stacked high with Pampers and Huggies.
Some women sat quietly, rocking newborns, smiling at the newly acquired supplies from the Mother’s Market piled in front of them.
Kalimah Brown, a single mom with two children, munched on pizza and expressed gratitude for the powder, clothes and diapers she collected.
“This means so much to me,” said Brown. “If it wasn’t for this store, I wouldn’t be able to provide important things for my babies.”
The Family Conservancy plans to restock the Mother’s Market with items inventoried from Project 39’s event.
“We’re in the middle of building a diaper wall, one of the most important items our moms need,” said Meyers.
The moms of Project 39 hope they can gather corporate support, in addition to growing the Mother of All Happy Hours, in 2014.
“Just like a food pantry, basic items like diapers, wipes, formula and laundry detergent are desperately needed by these women,” Davids said. “Our hope is to keep the Mother’s Market supplied with these things throughout the year.”
Kareesa Campbell, a St. Margaret’s resident and mother of six ranging from ages 16 to 2, attends Boyd’s classes and has shopped at the Mother’s Market.
“The classes give you a sense of worth and independence,” she said. “It helps me understand how to discipline. And the store — well, I don’t know what I would have done without it.”