A Special Day in May Event

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May is a special month for mothers and mother figures as the second Sunday of May is Mother’s Day. This year several partners came together to celebrate a group of mothers and their families at Josephine’s Place in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The Friends of Great Swamp organized the event and staff from the refuge as well as local Elizabeth youth leaders from Groundwork Elizabeth came to support the day.

Josephine’s Place opened its doors in 2003 as a center and drop-in space in the city of Elizabeth to serve the needs of women in an economically challenged area. As Sheila Casey, Executive Director of Josephine’s place described it, “Josephine’s Place stands as symbol of resilience. It gives these women opportunities to thrive; when they would not otherwise have. Our programs are free because we have really great support from the community.” 

The free program on Saturday May 18th provided a lunch, as well as a space for connection, crafting and reading. The mom’s had the chance to build-their-own bird house and paint them. The kids were broken up into age-appropriate groups and read nature-themed books by the volunteers.

The lunch with a huge success with local empanadas, a staple to many in the community. Following the food, a raffle with free backpacks was provided by our partners at OutGrown. OutGrown believes in the power of community connection and getting kids outside. The backpacks are one way to encourage mothers and their families to feel more confident in outdoor spaces. 

Afterwards, the kids had a craft time while the moms went back to putting finishing touches on their birdhouses. All of the programming centered around nature, birds and getting outside. The goal of the event was to provide a safe space for community engagement with a focus of learning about nature. Most moms at this event are first-generation immigrants and as Sheila put it, “some of the women have come here with some trauma, with transborders crossing, so they are leaving things behind. It can be challenging for them, and we are in a place that we can help them.”

Helping women is a big part of why the volunteers wanted to be a part of this event. As Diana, a Groundwork Elizabeth youth leader described her interest in supporting the event, “I wanted to come see the mothers and the children have fun. During the event, I had fun seeing the mothers, especially a mother who has an autistic son come out and have fun today.” Her colleague Ashley Winters chimed in with her reason for coming, “the reason I came is seeing women from any background, really all women in general, come together and have fun. Maybe back at home they don’t have this opportunity. I just find it so heartwarming.”

As a take-home, the families were given a seedling to grow at home, started by the Groundwork Elizabeth Green Team, as well as several nature-themed books that were donated for the event. 

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Urban refuge