Site unites county moms

By ASHLEY WOLSTONCROFT
Free-Lance Editor 
 
Parenting can be scary. 
Consequently, an Okmulgee woman is reminding mothers they are not alone. 
Mother Megan White created a Facebook page that serves as a safe place for mothers to ask questions about parenting. The questions have ranged anywhere from, “What doctor would you recommend for a toddler” and “Do you know what this rash on my child might be,” to “I need a reliable babysitter” and “I'm looking for new dinner ideas.” 
Members of the site also inform one another about school dress up days and events.
The group, entitled “Moms Around Okmulgee County,” began in 2015, and has grown to include over 1,500 members county-wide. 
“We started the group in August 2015. I had become a stay at home mom, and really had no one to lean on 'friend' wise, despite growing up in the area,” White said. “I thought it would be great to have a group that could bring women together in the area.”
Within a few weeks, membership jumped to 1,000 people.
“I wasn't sure what to expect with the group, but had friends dedicated to helping just as much as I was. We have put a lot of time and effort into the group and events we host.”
Those events include play dates, park dates, moms' night out, clothing swaps, helping individual members of the group and weekly/monthly threads. 
The threads are “For Sale,” “In Search of,” “Pay it Forward” and “Promotion/Giveaway.”
“These were the topics most asked for,” White said. “It helps keep the page a little less cluttered and keeps things organized.”
The “For Sale” thread consists of items that mothers may no longer need, including outgrown clothes, shoes, cribs, car seats, furniture and other household items. The “In Search of” thread is a space where individuals can request items they may need that other families are willing to sell or give away. Some of those items have included children's clothing, baby furniture, sewing requests and even a treadmill. 
The “Pay it Forward” thread includes items that are still in acceptable condition that woman are willing to donate. In January, some of those items have already been a trash bag full of stuffed animals, a fur coat, toys and a baby swing. The fourth thread is “Promotion/Giveaway.” Occasionally, White and other members offer prizes for participation in posts such as, “Comment a picture that makes you feel beautiful.”
Prizes have ranged anywhere from rustic cuffs to makeup and gift certificates. 
“For our giveaways, we have different members donate prizes. We take donations, or sometimes I will purchase the items,” White said. “Whatever the contest may be, once you enter the winner is picked at random with a random number generator.”
White said the group holds value for more than its giveaways and threads. 
“For moms with newborns or first-time mothers, I think the isolation factor sets in. I think they might feel alone, so that is where the group comes in handy for them,” she said. “For toddlers, it's great because we have playdates, and if you choose to participate, it lets them have the socialization they need without placing them in childcare. For school-aged children, it's helpful because you can vent about your child's school or ask a question and get an answer you need. You might even be able to find parents of kids in the same class as your child. I have, and made friends because of it. Also, you can see parents' viewpoints on our school systems, and what districts are better than others to place children in.”
Any Okmulgee County mother is approved to join the Facebook page. 
“Any mom, of any age, can benefit from the group. We have all topics on the page, from different members posting different questions. We also take suggestions and anonymous questions, and if someone doesn't feel quite comfortable asking a question, they can message Alexis Ashley or me and we ask for them,” White said. 
“We are a low-income area, and the group helps people with resources they need to find. I am proud of the group. It's difficult to put into words the emotions I feel when I see a single mom get a pack of diapers she couldn't afford, or a mom in need of a job reach the connection that lands her that job. It's such a great feeling to see the women of the community helping and building each other.”
White recalls a specific incident. 
“We have helped several families pay their utility bills, to people who couldn't afford clothing for their children,” White said. 
Although she no longer offers this service, she remembers the community assisting a woman who needed extra funds to last her until her next pay day. 
“[She] wrote needing help with her water bill. I don't really know why this sticks with me but she does, because even once we got the bill paid, I had a member donate extra funds particularly for this family to be able to make it to their pay day,” White said. “She realized their struggle. The fact that she went out of her way to make sure they were able to make it to pay day just really affected me.”
White ensures the webpage receives positive criticism, like the story she shared.
“Generally our members are great about helping by tagging one of us if they see something out of hand,” she said. “We have basically been operating on a trial/error basis. If something works, great! If not, we try it another way. We, the administrators of the group, have faced some negativity for whatever decisions we have had to make, and while we aren't perfect, we truly want the best for everyone. We do have help from a few moderators as well, because let's face it, a group with over 1,500 members is a lot to handle.”
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