Looking for a little inspiration to get through your week? We talked to seven local moms who are giving back in a big way. From providing toys and games to hospitalized children to growing and distributing produce to those in need, these women and their stories are giving us all the feels—and putting everything in perspective. Read on to meet these down-to-earth super moms and discover how you can get involved in some amazing causes.

photo: Courtesy of subject

Natalie Flores

Founder of Nourish LA

As the founder of grassroots organization Nourish LA, Natalie Flores is helping to ensure people in her community have access to healthy food. Flores, a longtime urban farmer, began Nourish LA shortly after the pandemic began, when members of her Mar Vista community were losing their jobs and worrying about putting food on the table. Since April, Flores has rallied businesses (partnering with The Wood Cafe), farmers markets, and other local urban farmers to contribute to the cause. With a team of volunteers, she runs a food-giveaway drive-up on Sunday, and delivers free vegetables and seedlings (so others can start their own garden) to those in need, including at-risk individuals and single parent households. 

When it comes to balancing motherhood and running Nourish LA, Flores says it can be crazy. Both she and her husband work full-time, but she fortunately has close friends and Grandma to help out watching her almost 3-year-old daughter. "My daughter knows throughout the week, Mama's gotta go to work," she says. "That could mean picking up food for our drive-up or having zoom meetings with various other organizations."

So how does she stay positive and energized when so many of us are feeling overwhelmed? "To see your tangible efforts create a positive affect in our neighborhoods and in the lives of others is a really incredible feeling," she says, adding that it helps her maintain perspective. "My complaints and hardships are nothing in comparison to my neighbors who are struggling to put food on the table for their families."

Get involved: Click here to learn about volunteering opportunities for both you and your kiddo with Nourish LA.

Talitha Phillips

Doula and CEO of Claris Health

While lots of parents have been working at home since mid-March, Talitha Phillips, a mother of two, hasn't had that option. She's a labor and postpartum doula and the CEO of Claris Health, a non-profit women's clinic focusing on sexual health and pregnancy. "My days are long—sometimes 18-20 hours," she says. "As an essential business and medical clinic, we’ve been open throughout the pandemic." 

In addition to leading the team at Claris Health as they navigate their way through the changing regulations and needs of the communities they serve, she's continued to work directly with moms-to-be whose "labor, delivery, and other plans have been completely thwarted" because of Covid. 

Phillips is the first to admit that balancing all the duties of work and motherhood hasn't been easy. She does her best to keep her kids active and she brings them to work when she needs to do so. But she admits, "The honest truth is that my kids are also staying up way too late, sleeping in, and watching more TV than I would have ever previously allowed!"

And that's okay. "I feel like a success at this point is learning when to catch or dodge the balls that are thrown at me all day, finding creative and productive solutions, and trying to stay sane and hopeful in the midst of it all," she says. Hear, hear!

Get involved: In-person volunteer opportunities with Claris Health are currently limited, but there's still a chance to help with the center's Baby Store, where families in need can “shop” for baby necessities (including diapers, wipes, clothing, food, and equipment), as well as with #ClarisOnWheels, a mobile clinic that distributes food and hygiene kits in LA county. Click here for all the details.

photo: Courtesy of Christen Peterson

Christen Peterson

Teacher & Childhood Cancer Warrior

In 2018, Christen Peterson got the news no parents ever want to hear: Her 11-year-old son had cancer in his brain. "It’s always somebody else’s child until it’s yours," says Peterson, a 7th grade teacher in Corona, CA. Cole was diagnosed with WNT medulloblastoma. In a way, he was lucky—this particular kind of medullablastoma, the rarest of four subgroups, has the best prognosis. 

Cole underwent surgery at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, and then Peterson and her son left for Memphis so Cole could be part of a clinical trial at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. "We had to pack up and leave California for six months," she says, while her husband stayed behind because of work. "The hardest part for Cole was being separated from his dog."

But Peterson's says that the team at St. Jude took care of them both. "They hold your hand through the whole process," she says. "I firmly believe St. Jude is the best place for kids to go for cancer treatment," she adds. (You can see a video of Cole's experience at St. Jude here. Note: Grab a tissue.)

After 30 rounds of low-dose radiation and four weeks of chemo, Peterson and Cole returned to California, but she was forever changed by her time at St. Jude. "When we came back, I had this drive; this need to fight," she says. "I was angry, angry at cancer, and I needed my voice to be heard."

She has given her voice to St. Jude, participating in campaigns and speaking engagement to help raise awareness of childhood cancer. "Childhood cancer only get 4 percent of all cancer funding—it's not enough," she says. 

Today, Cole is in remission, though he still travels back to St. Jude every three months for scans, and Peterson continues to fight to raise awareness of childhood cancer. Recently, she and a group of fellow "cancer moms," as they refer to themselves, convinced the City of Corona, as well as her school district and fire department to "Go Gold" during September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

"We realized the power of our voices," Peterson says. "And we decided to use that power to make a change."

Get involved: Check out Peterson's fundraising page and contribute to St. Jude and their efforts to cure childhood cancer. 

Neferteri Plessy

Co-Founder of Single Mom Planet

Neferteri Plessy (third from left) knows firsthand the challenges of being a single mom. She had two young sons and her divorce rocked her world, as she struggled to balance the day-to-day obligations of motherhood with providing financially for her children following her divorce. Her own experience prompted her to research the effects of divorce and single motherhood. That's when she learned that the most disadvantaged group in the U.S. are single-mother families, 30 percent of which live below the poverty line.

To help other women like her, Plessy and Cole Patterson started Single Moms Planet. Their goal? To end the poverty cycle in single parent households and empower single moms and their children through financial literacy, family bonding activities, mentorship, family counseling and entrepreneurial training. 

Plessy is quick to acknowledge that while she's the co-founder of Single Moms Planet, she shares the credit for the non-profit's work and success with other local mothers (pictured) who have given both time and money to the cause to make a difference. 

Get involved: Find out how you can donate and fundraise for Single Moms Planet here

Sharon Rubinstein-Litwak

Founder and Executive Director of The Oscar Litwak Foundation

To honor the memory of her son—4 year-old Oscar Litwak who died from cancer—Sharon Rubinstein-Litwak founded the The Oscar Litwak Foundation in 2003. The foundation's mission: to bring the joy of play to hospitalized children. Since then, the non-profit has provided more than 130 Mobile Playrooms (filled with toys, books, games, arts and crafts and more) to hospitals and pediatric facilities around the country. 

The pandemic has only increased Rubinstein-Litwak's commitment to the cause. "Hospitalized children right now are more isolated than ever," she says. "They are only allowed one visitor and need to stay mainly in their rooms, so donations like ours help them pass their time." She adds that they had to "adapt and modify some of [their] donations to comply with new hospital rules and precautions." (Recently, they assembled more than 170 individual "distraction bags" to be delivered to hospitalized children.)

A mother of three girls (ages 17, 14 and 12), Rubinstein-Litwak has also broadened the work of the foundation in response to Covid. "We felt there were other things we could do, so we donated over 3000 meals to hospitals workers and nursing home staff, as well as 10 iPads to the Jewish Home for the Aging, so residents could communicate with their families."

With her daughters learning remotely now and everyone home together, she tells us that it's given her an opportunity get them more involved in her work. "They have stepped up to the plate and helped me organize and deliver meals and put together the distraction bags that we donate to the hospitals," she says.

Get involved: The Oscar Litwak Foundation relies on volunteers for everything from preparing Mobile Playrooms to assisting with social media. Click here to learn more.

Nicole Robertson

Co-Founder and CEO of Swap Society

Here's a number that might shock you: The average American throws away 70 pounds of clothes every year, much of which ends up in landfills. What's more, textile mills generate a fifth of the world's industrial water pollution and use 20,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic, to make clothes, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

Those statistics motivated Nicole Robertson to start Swap Society, an online clothing swap for women and kids. The mother of two wanted to offer an alternative to "fast fashion," and create a way to swap that was fun, easy, affordable and sustainable.

Since Swap Society launched, members of the online marketplace have swapped over 20 thousand garments. Robertson also practices what she preaches. The self-proclaimed sustainable fashion advocate stopped buying “new” clothes 10 years ago.

To help on a broader level, Robertson tells us that Swap Society has "partnered with the nonprofits Remake and Fashion Revolution, working toward an ethical and sustainable fashion industry." 

Get involved: Clean out your closet (and your kiddo's closet) to get started swapping with Swap Society. Learn more here

Samantha Barnes

Founder of Raddish Kids

Based in Redondo Beach, Samantha Barnes is the founder of Raddish Kids, a culinary subscription kit that teaches kids to cook (while reinforcing math, science and reading skills too!). 

When Covid forced schools to close in March, Barnes and her Raddish team immediately set to work to support parents with immersive, learning activities. Under Barnes's leadership, the company gave away 50,000 free Raddish kits (equivalent to $1.2 million in sales) to families nationwide, as well as created a free online resource for new homeschooling parents.

While running her business and homeschooling her own children, she also made it a priority to host multiple virtual cook-alongs weekly for two months—with her children—to educate and engage kids, and created a fundraiser with 100 percent of the proceeds going to World Central Kitchen (WKC) to feed those in need, donating more than $10,000. "Through their relief efforts across the world, WCK has consistently demonstrated an ability to efficiently mobilize chefs, strengthen economies, and feed those in need at a local level, all while making global change," Barnes tells us.

Asked what motivates and inspires her work, Barnes tells us, "I'm motivated to provide a strong foundation for my own kids -- to model the ups and downs of running a business, to create a home filled with love and empathy, and to inspire them to be curious, independent thinkers and agents of change."

Get involved: Discover Raddish's Kitchen Classroom offerings, including easy recipes for kids, homeschool lesson plans and more. Click here for volunteering opportunities with World Central Kitchen.

–Shannan Rouss

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