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More Than Milk
Finding time to volunteer can be challenging for a new mom trying to juggle all the responsibilities that come with having a baby. When Amy Cahill faced this predicament, she created More Than Milk, a nonprofit in Chicago, Illinois, to help other new moms volunteer in their community.
Cahill explains that More Than Milk is “an organization inspiring, energizing, and uniting moms through philanthropy. Everything we do, everything we organize, is geared towards helping other organizations and cultural organizations in the community.”
Her decision to start volunteering came from a desire to be a good role model for her son as well as feeling “a need to do something bigger in the community.” Trying to volunteer with a three-month old baby to look after, however, was far from easy.
She found herself “trying to balance a baby sitter and find a place for my son, work with my husband, and it was just logistically impossible,” she explains.
Cahill was determined not to let that stop her, though. She started to look for something that she could do to help her community with her baby alongside. “There wasn't really anything out there that combined everything, where you could bring your child, involve your child,” she says. “There wasn't really anything out there directed directly towards moms.”
So she, along with some friends in a new mom’s group, put their heads together to come up with a solution. They all knew “so many smart, intelligent women that [were] so charismatic, energetic, and compassionate,” and were determined to harness that passion.
Their mission was to “take those moms and get them involved in philanthropy in a way that fits their schedules if they have young children at home,” explains Cahill.
After visiting local nonprofits and speaking with them, More Than Milk began in 2010 with some pilot events at which mothers could volunteer with their babies. “We did some lemonade stands where moms and babies and kids supported lemonade stands for Bright Pink and from there, we dove into projects with other organizations.”
Now, More Than Milk is a rapidly growing nonprofit that engages new mothers and their desire to volunteer and help their community in many different ways – all including their babies, of course.
From “awareness building activities, donation classes, fitness classes,” to pajama parties and toy drives, “we do anything creative that moms can bring their kids to and we can help that organization,” says Cahill.
Every two months, More Than Milk picks a different nonprofit on which they will focus their attentions, “so every two months, everything is different, everything is unique,” says Cahill.
They are currently working with a nonprofit called Girls on the Run, which encourages girls to build self-esteem and fitness by running. Cahill says that the More Than Milk moms will be “practice running buddies for the girls on their teams and then we're going to encourage moms to do the actual 5k run in November.”
More Than Milk has supported programs to encourage literacy, healthy living, and to help the elderly. “With the elderly, the kids come and hang out with the elders and that's a project right there. The elders love babies and toddlers and just watching them and engaging with them,” says Cahill.
The process for More Than Milk is simple. Cahill explains that, “the moms go onto our website, they sign up for a specific project, specific activity, and they bring their babies and we get something done.”
Sometimes the activities will include the children, but on other occasions, More Than Milk will make sure there are babysitters – often volunteered by a local agency, Urban Sitter – so that the moms can focus on an activity without having to arrange their own childcare.
Since starting in 2010, the More Than Milk moms have completed over twenty-seven projects, and there have been over two hundred moms and some dads volunteer at their philanthropy events.
The moms all enjoy the time to spend with each other and meeting new people all while helping a good cause and still spending time with their babies.
More Than Milk mom, Elizabeth Bushaw, says that, “for moms, it’s really important to have a network and a group of fellow people that are going through the same thing you are because it can be a very overwhelming experience and to incorporate fitness as well and to give you a way to feel good about yourself is great.”
Going further even than a network of other moms, Cahill explains that, “the moms who come to different More Than Milk events are really excited to get out with their kids and begin that culture of family philanthropy, so starting from a young age, just exposing their kids to the joys and happiness associated with helping others.”
More than anything, the organization wants to show these women that they are an extremely valuable part of society. They are young and healthy, and with just a little help with the logistics of volunteering with a baby, they can be a great resource to their local nonprofits.
Emily Lancy from Girls on the Run explains that, “while they’re doing service projects, while they’re getting together and socializing with each other, they’re also teaching their kids about the organization. They’re giving back, spreading the word, and so that has ultimately helped us bring more programs to Chicago.”
“We're really hoping that More Than Milk spurs a movement, a movement of moms, of families,” says Cahill. “So in Chicago, you turn your play-dates into drives for notebooks or drives for books so that ... philanthropy is part of what Chicago families do and they grow up always volunteering together.”
What stemmed from “such a little idea” – as Cahill puts it – is now becoming a way for moms and families in Chicago to become more involved in their communities and to become inspired by their own ability to initiate change.
“I wanted to find a way that I could make a difference in the community and now that it's growing and building, it's really fun and exciting to say that beyond me, I'm making a difference with this great community of moms.”
Cahill’s excitement about More Than Milk extends far beyond the fun she has while participating in the volunteer events. “It makes me feel extremely satisfied and I'm so appreciative of everything that I've met through the projects that we've done ... it's been an extremely rewarding experience for me and my family.”