Shannon Christensen’s eyes light up when she tells her favourite Mamas for Mamas stories.
“There’s the mom of two-year-old twins who gives all her baby stuff to the mom of newborn twins,” said Christensen, 29.
“And then there’s the mom with the son who needs $650 in dental surgery and can’t pay for it. Another mom does a bottle drive to help raise money and then another mom goes to the dentist and pays the remainder.”
This is how it works at Kelowna-based Mama for Mamas, the non-profit organization Christensen started up just 18 months ago.
“Our mandate is donate, share, support, connect,” said Christensen.
“It’s the ultimate recycling program. Moms donate and trade items with each other to save money. No cash changes hands. The currency is kindness. It’s a platform for all mamas to ask for and receive or give help without embarrassment.”
In April last year, Christensen saw on Facebook a single mom was short on money to buy food for her family.
Shannon bought some food and dropped it off.
And that got her to thinking.
How can I take this from a grassroots movement to changing the world?
She started local with a Mamas for Mamas Facebook page for Kelowna moms.
The trading of goods and services, networking, job-finding help and reciprocal child care started taking off.
It quickly grew to 4,700 members in Kelowna and Mamas for Mamas chapters, driven by Facebook, spread to 14 more communities in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, from Salt Spring Island and Prince George to Crowsnest Pass and Okotoks and Regina and Saskatoon.
There are plans to take the non-profit not just national, but international.
“There’s no reason we can’t have Mamas for Mamas all over the world. It’s time for real change,” said Christensen.
“It helps moms, it helps kids, it helps communities and it helps keep useful items out of landfills. It’s a win-win-win-win.”
It’s hard to believe Christensen has time to change the world.
She works four days a week at the Elizabeth Fry Society as a facilitator with the Girls United program.
She just finished her masters counselling psychology degree in March at Adler University in Chicago.
And she also has her own youth therapy private practice.
By the way, she’s a wife and mother of a five-year-old and a two-year-old.
It was during a work placement at the provincial government’s youth forensic psychiatric services it clicked that kids fell through the cracks when moms don’t get the support they should.
Mamas for Mamas is her solution for helping prevent and solve problems moms regularly encounter.
“I sometimes find it hard to be a mom and I have an education, supportive husband and wonderful parents and in-laws,” said Christensen.
“So Mamas for Mamas is a community for moms that make $8,000 a year and those that make $80,000 a year.”
Christensen has and hasn’t reinvented the wheel.
While Mamas for Mamas is revolutionary, she doesn’t want to duplicate what other agencies are doing.
So it works in conjunction with food banks, Salvation Army, Single Mothers’ Alliance of B.C., Kelowna Community Resources, Society of Hope, Save Kindness Society, Second Chance Computer Program and B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition.
Besides all the helpful Facebook connections, Mamas for Mamas also accepts donations of anything and everything moms and kids can use from food, clothes and diapers to strollers, furniture and gardening tools.
Donations can be dropped off by appointement at Society of Hope in Glenmore.
See MamasforMamas.ca to find out how.
The donated items are given away every six weeks at a giant swap at a different location.
The next one is Oct. 17 at the Bean Scene coffeeshop at Landmark Square.
Leftover items from those swaps are donated to the Save Kindness Society, which has a garage sale, and donates the money raised back to Mamas for Mamas.
On Nov. 13, Mamas for Mamas is having a country party at the Laurel Building to kickstart the fundraising campaign to establish a non-profit childcare centre.