Chapter Co-Leader Jessica Pitelka Opfer describes what makes Chapter 13 such an incredible community for its 30 members who live in Oakland County, located about 25 miles northwest of Detroit, Michigan.
Describe the Oakland County Chapter’s community of moms.
Our group is a great mix of seasoned moms with school-age children who have been members for 5 years or more and newer members who are just starting out on their journey of motherhood. We try to offer activities to suit the needs of all members, including those who work outside the home.
A large proportion of our membership is comprised of at-home moms who set aside successful and varied careers to become full-time moms. We are teachers (preschool to A.P. Psychology), musicians, attorneys, meeting planners, environmental scientists, advertising and market research specialists and engineers.
Some of us have lived in Oakland County all our lives and others have moved here from around the country and across the globe. We each bring a different background and perspective to the table, but we all share the experience of motherhood, and that has proven to be our common ground. More often than not, the conversation at our gatherings turns to childbirth, potty training, or the trials and travails of the terrible twos (and threes, and fours).
“Wherever we came from and wherever we may end up, friendships have been forged here that will last a lifetime.”
Describe how members can be involved.
Our activities for moms with young children include regular playgroups (at members’ homes or local parks) and field trips. Some of our favorite destinations include the Detroit Zoo, local aquarium and science museums, water parks in the summer, and pumpkin and apple picking in the fall. We usually hold a family picnic in the summer and at least one other family gathering during the year, such as a Halloween or Valentine’s party. We also take great pride in our mom-only activities. We have monthly book club, Moms Night Out, and Moms Night In gatherings.
Our book club has about 15 regular participants and we nominate and vote on the books we are going to read every 6 months. We try to cover a broad range of fiction, non-fiction and classics. Our fiction choices range from literary (The Ocean at the End of the Lane) to science fiction (Wool), and thriller (Gone Girl) to chick lit (The Husband’s Secret). We don’t have a set structure or prepared questions, but we each give the book a rating on a 1-5 scale and offer our impressions, then let the conversation morph and twist where it wants to go. There’s no pressure to even have read the book, as some participants haven’t had a chance to read and just want a relaxing night out.
Our Moms Night Out activities are also varied and fun – we’ve done fitness classes (pole dancing, pilates, yoga, barre), movie nights, dinners at local restaurants, wine tasting, miniature golf, painting, comedy club, and drag queen bingo.
Our Moms Night In gatherings usually have some sort of theme but mostly revolve around food and good conversation. We’ve had game nights, wine and beer tastings, crafts, ugly prom/bridesmaid dress night, and shared our wedding albums and summer bucket list ideas.
Finally, twice a year we coordinate a Moms Weekend Away – a wine tasting tour in the spring on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, and a spa weekend in the fall at a resort in northwest Michigan. These are wonderful opportunities to get away for a couple of days and enjoy the companionship of other moms in a vacation atmosphere. They are usually attended by 6-10 members.
What are you particularly proud of about your chapter?
Most of our members would probably agree that the Moms Night In and Moms Night Out activities are hugely important. Without these gatherings many of us would not get out of the house on a regular basis. While we do have coordinators for these monthly events, we all try to pitch in when it comes to brainstorming new ideas for our outings and themes.
One of the “services” we provide that is really appreciated is bringing meals to new moms. With the help of our Member Support Coordinator, we try to provide at least 6-8 meals to members with new babies, as well as those having any kind of health or family crisis. We’ve found it can be a huge relief to take the burden of meal preparation off the shoulders of those experiencing a life-changing event. Last year we started using the website www.takethemameal.com, which has streamlined the meal scheduling process immensely.
Describe a favorite Moms Night Out.
Last month we held our Moms Night Out at a local venue called The Escape Room. Seven of us attended this live interactive game in which we were locked in a room and had to find hidden objects, identify clues, and solve puzzles in order to escape. Our group came very close to breaking out and we had a blast in the process. It was a thought-provoking night of mom bonding that was followed up with drinks and snacks at a local brewpub.
How do volunteers make an impact in your chapter?
Our chapter would not be possible without our volunteers. Our board is made up of 10+ positions, including our two co-leaders, treasurer, greeter, and coordinators for moms night in, moms night out, book club, play groups, field trips, membership, and newsletter. We’ve had a number of successful charity events, including a purse drive and diaper drive. Our attitude is “divide and conquer.” No one person can invest a huge amount of time in this effort, but if we all pitch in a little, we can accomplish great things.