Story By: Katrice Williams
Photography By: Tonya Perry
“There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.”
MOPS International, Inc., or Mothers of Preschoolers, is a Denver-based non-profit organization which began in Wheat Ridge, Colorado in 1973 by a small group of mothers. The first meeting included the moms sharing their mommy-experiences, laughing together, learning together and having fun with crafts and devotion. They soon pooled their experiences, skills and creativities into the new organization. Hence, a community of mothers was formed, which has tremendously grown over the years. Currently, there are MOPS groups all over the country and the world, which connect communities of moms in various cities. The organization focuses on moms with children 0-5 years old; it also welcomes expecting mothers. MOPS feel that motherhood is a gift to be celebrated and understands that properly “raising human beings is beautiful and hard, and having each other to lean on is life-saving.”
Based at First Presbyterian Church in Pooler, where John Fender is the pastor and Michael Brown is the assistant pastor, the Pooler MOPS organization has existed for about eight years. Their mission is: “to create a supportive community based in love and service, dedicated to bringing women closer to Jesus and equip them to grow as women, mothers and leaders.”
Jennifer Mullis, who is also a member of First Presbyterian, has been part of the local MOPS group for about two years now. Jennifer, a Macon native, moved to Pooler over three years ago. In fact, she and her husband Stephen relocated to the area from Macon when their baby boy Isaiah was only two weeks old.
Presently, Jennifer and Carlie Martin, who are also members of First Presbyterian, are co-coordinators of the Pooler MOPS group. There are currently about 40 members, 12 of which are members of the group’s steering team–group leaders who are responsible for planning meetings, coordinating and leading group activities and implementing various programs. Ladies who have been members of MOPS for at least one year are eligible to join the steering team; Jennifer and Carlie are both on the team. Some steering team roles include marketing, advertising, finance and discussion group leaders just to name a few.
Jennifer comments, “It’s like running a little business. We have to promote and advertise…reach the moms and come up with new programs. It’s wonderful, and it’s a lot of fun.” MOPS meet on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month, while the steering team meets on the 2nd Wednesday of each month; both groups meet from 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Jennifer is excited about the program and sees the undeniable benefit in it. She values the friendships that she has made and whole-heartedly appreciates all of the invaluable contributions of the other ladies.
Jennifer asserts, “It’s moms helping other moms…being there for each other and encouraging
each other. Being a mother is one of the biggest blessings there is but also one of the most difficult jobs. It’s 24/7; there are no holidays. There are days that our kids, as much as we love them, they test us. As soon as we think we have it all figured out, there’s another age and stage. I’ve loved that this group has given us an opportunity to encourage each other and to be able to ask questions. We’re supporting each other, and we’re all going through the same things together.”
The ladies are able to enjoy arts and crafts at many meetings; they have been recently working on canvas art for their kid’s bedrooms and nursery walls.
“We try to find crafts that will be relaxing and enjoyable—hopefully something they can take home and enjoy,” says Jennifer.
The steering team also has speakers at many of the meetings—individuals whose insight and knowledge are immensely helpful to the moms. There is a wide range of topics addressed that changes based on what may be most relevant to the group at any given time. Interestingly enough, one of their very own steering team moms Leigh White recently spoke. Leigh is a certified nutritionist who gave the moms a lot of useful information regarding their kid’s nutrition needs. She passed out some great recipes and even gave them hints on how to slip good veggies into meals. Further, Pastor Fender himself spoke to the moms on the importance of helping their children to be thankful, as the principle of appreciation and selflessness can be easily taken for granted at times. If it is instilled early on, chances are, it will stick.
Jennifer states, “He just did such an amazing job of helping us understand how to give the children the bigger picture. It was very convicting to me.”
What’s more, Pastor Fender has been a great mentor for Jennifer while she has been a member of First Presbyterian and a part of MOPS.
“Thankfully, he’s a wonderful leader; he does an amazing job of helping Carlie and I know that he is there. He will help give us direction. At the same time, he lets the steering team do the day-to-day decision making. It’s so great that he trusts us to do what the moms need. We know we can call on him, and he’s there,” Jennifer mentions.
Prior to meetings, moms are able to take their children to childcare, also known as MOPPETS. Moms can always rest easy knowing that their kids are well cared for. MOPS understand that the stages of little ones can be very different; therefore, children are placed in nurseries according to their ages. All nurseries are properly staffed with childcare specialists. Reneé Stauffer is the MOPPETTS Coordinator; she oversees the entire program and plans the lessons for the children. Whether watching videos, having snacks together, doing arts and crafts or other interactive activities, Reneé ensures that the kids will get a ton out of each visit.
Regarding Reneé, Jennifer insists, “She is amazing; she does amazing things.”
This time provides a great outlet for the moms, understanding that even the most incredible moms in the world can benefit greatly from a bit of relaxation and adult socialization.
“We really try to let the moms have some down time—time that we really need,” Jennifer remarks.
Speaking of time, the ladies give a lot of their time to some magnificent causes throughout the year. The group collects much needed items for Covenant Care Adoption Services. Moreover, the ladies enjoy their yearly participation in Operation Christmas Child, as it is heart-breaking to know that any child is in need, especially during the Christmas Season. They also collect Band-Aids all year long for CURE Childhood Cancer and the Memorial Hospital Children’s Cancer Center. The group gets the kiddy Band-Aids like princess ones for girls or super hero ones for boys.
“These Band-Aids seem like such a small thing, but the children love getting them as opposed to the plain hospital ones. It’s amazing how even that can make such a difference,” Jennifer reveals.
Jennifer is very proud of her own little tumbling tyke Isaiah. He is a happy and active little three-year-old. Isaiah likes when his mom has MOPS meetings because he loves interacting with the other kids at the daycare. As his personality is developing more and more each day, Jennifer knows that the social skills that he is building there are priceless. Still, as a mom, she gets a little sad when she realizes just how fast her little boy is growing up.
Jennifer truly “loves her MOPS group” and knows that the organization has a bright future ahead. She is “so excited and encouraged to have the support of other MOPS moms and can’t express enough how helpful it is to have it.”
First Presbyterian Church
1115 Hwy. 80 East
Pooler, GA 31322