As the two-year MOMS Tour travels to 50 cities around the United States, organizers depend on volunteers to help before, during and after events.
MOMS stands for Maternal Outcomes Matter Showers. The organizers are working to reach new and expectant mothers in communities with high maternal and infant mortality rates — including Black, American Indian and Alaska Native women.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is supporting A Chance to Learn, CocoLife.Black and others in this initiative designed to connect local resources, and game changing doulas, to mothers in inner-city communities.
Through the help of JustServe.org — a website and app where organizations list their volunteer needs — each baby shower is able to bring education and resources to mothers in unprecedented ways.
The weekend of May 20-21, the MOMS Tour went to Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, with its first stop at Cathedral of Faith in Atlanta and then Hutchings College and Career Academy in Macon.
JustServe volunteer Diana Hardy called it an “amazing opportunity” to help in Atlanta, where more than 300 expectant and new mothers attended.
“In addition to helping set up, decorate and hand out diapers and wipes, we had the privilege of hearing from local and national experts,” Hardy said.
The presenters addressed topics such as postpartum depression and prenatal services.
“We were able to make great connections with local and regional vendors with whom we hope to collaborate in the future to continue to address these critical issues in our community,” Hardy said. “Above all it was a joyful day celebrating so many new moms and just an absolute pleasure to serve.”
Kathy Weir, the first counselor in the Macon Georgia Stake Relief Society presidency, volunteered in Macon — first setting up for the event, decorating and placing chairs. During the shower, she helped distribute supplies and serve a light lunch.
“At the exhibit that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had, we were able to meet and talk with many expectant mothers and hand out about 250 [packages of baby] wipes,” Weir said.
Weir said seeing the smiles of the mothers as they received the donations was heartwarming.
“What a blessing it was to relieve some of the pressure that comes with pregnancy. It did my heart good to see so many different organizations willing to donate time and advise these young mothers to be,” she said.
In St. Louis, Missouri, the MOMS Tour organization provided a large, successful baby shower for over 60 expectant and new moms on March 25, providing food, gifts and other resources.
The event was held at Williams Temple Church of God in Christ. The Urban League STL recognized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, represented by Elder Randall K. Bennett, General Authority Seventy and second counselor in the North America Central Area presidency, and his wife, Sister Shelley W. Bennett; and Elder Jeremiah J. Morgan, an Area Seventy. Church welfare and self-reliance managers also participated.
With the support of JustServe and encouragement from local Church leaders, 106 volunteers donated over 500 hours on-site to make the event possible, said Thomas Blair from the St. Louis Missouri Stake, who serves as the communication director for the St. Louis/Southern Illinois region.
“Who gives up a Saturday in March to travel to north St. Louis to volunteer? Angels,” he said. “God bless those who have taken to heart President Russell M. Nelson’s admonition to ‘lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice … [and] promote respect for all God’s children’” (“Let God Prevail,” October 2020 general conference).
Blair said the support and optimism of the volunteers throughout the entire event was inspiring.
“There were many tears of gratitude and hugs of appreciation. The expectant mothers left feeling loved and cared for,” he said.
Blair said the MOMS event is just one of many good things taking place in St. Louis. He said he can see how the Lord is softening hearts among people of different faiths and beliefs, as they focus on what they have in common — loving God and one’s neighbor.
In Kansas City, Missouri, around 30 JustServe volunteers and members of the Church helped at the MOMS baby shower event on March 26, helping set up, handle registration and photos, serve food and help with a kids corner. The volunteers who helped with the children were assigned by priesthood leaders and underwent the Church’s Protecting Children and Youth training.
Meanwhile, many people also made baby blankets ahead of time.
JustServe specialist Corrie Clasen said 87 knitted, crocheted and quilted blankets were donated for the new mothers. Other gifts were given to each mom to help her prepare to welcome her new baby.
Lupe Moe said the event was enjoyable and informational and she hopes there can be another one in the future.
“There was great team effort on the volunteers’ part,” she said. “There was a good variety of useful maternal, paternal and nursery items and advice.”
Exhibitors offered information to the expectant moms. The event included panel discussions, including one with guest speaker Porter Ellett, a member of the Church and a part of the NFL Kansas City Chiefs organization. He spoke about how to be an engaged parent.
Melanie Ashland loved a panel discussion about issues women go through with pregnancies and childbirth.
“The worth of a mother is amazing and very much needed,” Ashland said. “It by no means is an easy thing to bring forth a child, given everything that we go through during a pregnancy. I thought the panel did a great job of portraying the realities of motherhood and the struggles that go with it.”
She also said she felt that the mothers were genuinely honored in a way that made them feel special, especially at the photo area.
Irene Gallegos took maternity photographs of the women at the shower.
“These gorgeous women embodied the purpose their bodies were immersed in during this season of their lives,” Gallegos said. “Photographing them in the very essence of the gift they were given and were giving exposed the ancient Hebrew meaning of hará/pregnancy — mountain, gather, bosom, worship and lift up.”
Through this event, the Church was able to build a new relationship with the Black Health Care Coalition of Kansas City and continue to work together on similar events since then.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. American Indian and Alaska Native women are twice as likely to die than white women, and 80% of pregnancy-related deaths were determined preventable.
As the MOMS Tour continues around the United States in coming months, there will be more efforts for JustServe volunteers in other cities to help with setting up, running the event and cleaning up afterward. Needs for donations are also posted on www.justserve.org/themomstour.
In a Church News report from November 2022 about the first citywide baby shower in Chicago, Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson said: “These opportunities to work with our friends in government and community are so important for us to touch the lives of [individuals]. We look at things globally, but we must also look at the needs of the one.”