By CHERIL VERNON
Palestine area moms of young children under the age of 5 are invited to the Palestine Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) first morning meeting of the fall on Wednesday.
“I don’t think a lot of moms here know about this group except through word of mouth,” MOPS of Palestine coordinator Heather Jeffers told the Herald-Press. “I feel like there are a ton of moms in Palestine that would enjoy being a part of our group.”
MOPS, an international organization, meet monthly during the fall and spring on the first Wednesday of the month from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Palestine, where childcare is provided through the MOPPETS program in a preschool-like environment.
“We usually have a program related to topics about what we are going through at this time in our lives, such as parenting, organizing or money management,” Jeffers said. “We also do a lot of crafts. We have awesome volunteers that watch our kids for us during this time.”
Currently, about 15 moms meet regularly with the group, with a total of about 30 children participating in the MOPPETS program.
“The kids are divided up by age with two volunteers per class,” Jeffers explained. “It’s not just baby-sitting. They have their own program, a craft, a story and snack.”
MOPS also has a monthly evening meeting on the third Monday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. Childcare is not provided for this meeting.
“The evening meeting is more informal, more of a girls night out. There is no childcare. We may have dinner together, meet at one of the girl’s homes, have a movie night, play Bunco® or other games or do a craft,” Jeffers said.
For Palestine mom Katy Estrada, this is her third year to be a part of MOPS, currently serving as the publicity coordinator.
“I love the friendships that you make with this group and we have a lot of fun,” Estrada said. “When I moved here seven years ago, I didn’t know anybody my age until I joined the group. We share a common bond because we have children around the same age.”
MOPS is open to moms who have at least one child age 0 to 5 or who are pregnant.
“Even if some of your kids are older but you have one child age 5 or under, you are welcome to attend,” Jeffers said.
Teen moms, foster moms and moms who have adopted children also are invited.
“I would love for every mom with young kids to have the support base I have had with other MOPS moms,” Jeffers said. “We are able to be completely real with each other, reminding ourselves of the quote, ‘There’s no way to be a perfect mom, but a million ways to be a great one.’”
Jeffers has been a part of MOPS of Palestine for four years. She formerly served as the MOPPETS coordinator, making sure the program for the children was set up each week.
“I started MOPS when we moved here in 2010. At that time my son Lance was 17 months old. I was very lonely because I didn’t know anyone here,” Jeffers said. “I made friends instantly that were in the same exact stage of life as me. We have that in common, even though we all have differences. Some of us may work and some of us may not work, for example, but we are all moms of young children.”
For Estrada and Jeffers, it’s about getting a few hours a month to rest and socialize.
“It’s nice just to be able to take a break and do something fun for two hours with women who know what we are going through in our lives,” Jeffers said.
During the morning meeting, a large breakfast is generally served.
“It’s always a good breakfast,” Jeffers said. “Our hospitality coordinator Andrea Brown is providing our first breakfast. After that we take turns.”
Last year, MOPS of Palestine participated in the Hot Pepper Festival Parade and won third place in Dogwood Garden Club’s Festival of Trees at the Palestine Mall.
“We plan to participate in those things again this year. The money we won from winning third place in the Festival of Trees we put toward a service project, making 20 fleece blankets for Living Alternatives of Palestine,” Estrada said. “We also bought four Pack n’Plays® (portable playpen) and donated other baby goods as a spring service project.”
On Valentine’s Day, the moms and children take Valentine’s to residents at Greenbrier Nursing & Rehab Center.
“We pass them out with the kids. It’s been a huge success. The kids love it, the residents love it and we love it. It’s a lot of fun,” Jeffers said.
At Christmas, the group bakes Christmas cookies and takes them to various public servants such as to the fire department, police department, hospital, animal shelter, etc.
“We are looking for more ways for us to serve with our children,” Jeffers said.
While meetings are held at First Baptist Church of Palestine, located at 5700 N. Loop 256 next to the Palestine YMCA, moms do not have to attend church or be members to participate.
“(First Baptist Church’s pastor) Jay (Abernathy) has been very helpful to our group and they would love for your family to attend the church, but you do not have to be members,” Estrada said. “We have women of all faiths in our group. Our Steering Committee is made of women who attend five different churches.”
The group doesn’t hold meetings in the summer, as meetings are scheduled each month September through May.
“We take the summers off but we still have playdates,” Jeffers said.
For more information about MOPS of Palestine, visit the MOPS of Palestine Facebook page or call First Baptist Church at 903-729-0204.