Bloomfield moms raise money to upgrade two shelters

A group of Bloomfield women who call themselves ‘MomCollab,’ have banded together for charitable work. In the back row, from left, are Stephanie Virgin, Tiffany Tipton, Carley Storm, Jennifer Brown and Tammy Richards; in the front row, from left, are Danielle McHugh, Maria Peneda, Ysolt Schmidt, Breanne Kingham and Karina Cicchino.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — A group of Bloomfield mothers have formed a charitable group that is helping to sustain two shelters for battered women.

The name of the group is MomCollab and it currently has 10 members. It recently raised $2,400 at a fundraiser for the nonprofit Strengthen Our Sisters, which operates the shelters. Tammy Richards, a member of MomCollab, said the group has just started coming together.

“We’ve been friends collectively for about a year,” Richards said last week in a telephone interview. “Coming up with MomCollab happened about five weeks ago. We all have toddlers and most of us met in day care or around town or in the park.”
The mothers live in the Oak View, Brookdale and Demarest school areas.

“We’re all full-time working moms and we’d sometimes meet up and go out for dinner,” she said.
The group became fairly large, according to Richards, and conversation got around to doing something charitable to give back to the community. One member of the group, Ysolt Schmidt, is a journalist and had a suggestion.

While working for the Huffington Post, about seven years ago, Schmidt had written a story on two shelters for battered women. They were located in Wanaque and Milford, and helping these facilities was a possibility. Research was done and it was learned the shelters were run by volunteers and struggling. According to Richards, 55 children were residents.

The group decided to have a fundraiser and the shelters were contacted. The fundraiser was held Dec. 6, in a Bloomfield restaurant and collected $2,400. Richards and Schmidt delivered the check to Strengthen Our Sisters on Thursday, Dec. 13.
“This was only five weeks in the making,” Richards said of the effort. “It’s this notion of moms helping moms. We thought, wouldn’t it be cool if there were more MomCollabs.”

But Richards said the name “MomCollab” was also chosen because it was meant to signify not just mothers helping mothers, but helping worthwhile charities in general.

“It was just to give something back,” she said.
Stephanie Virgin, a member of the group, said in a telephone interview that a name for the group became necessary when a Facebook page was created to help organize the fundraiser. She said for the fundraiser, MomCollab members were giving responsibilities that included working with the restaurant management and musicians, acting as liaison to Strengthen Our Sisters, handling the raffle and creating social media.

“We just used everyone’s skill set,” Virgin said.
Schmidt, the journalist, said she had learned about the shelters from a visit while writing her story, but had lost contact with the facilities during the intervening years.

When the two MomCollab members delivered the check, they attended a group meeting at the home of Sandra Ramos, who established the shelters and now acts as their director. Schmidt said she and Richards expected to find a group of fragile women.
“But they were just like us,” she said in a telephone interview last weekend.

And the talk among the women, as it went around the room, was about what inspired them and their careers. Schmidt said that made her feel good.

“They weren’t talking about their abuse,” she said. “And they came from all walks of life.”
There was gratitude for the donation, but Schmidt said she could not help but feel that it was not enough.
Recalling her experience at the meeting, Richards said there were eight women there, but not all were residents of the shelter. They ranged in age from their early 30s to a 76-year-old woman. Richards said she was shocked by one person who she never would have guessed lived in a shelter for battered women.

“You might have an idea of what she would be like,” Richards said. “But she was very articulate. She was a child in the shelter and left.”

Another women, she said, spoke about how her children loved the shelter as a home. Richards planned to visit both shelters today, Thursday, Dec. 20.

“One thing we would love to do is tackle the repairs,” she said. They gave us a list.”
There is also a day care center at the shelter, which Richards said needs a new floor. Schmidt said she hopes MomCollab does more for the shelters and she wants this to be discussed when the group meets again.
“Harassment,” Schmidt said, “does not discriminate.”