By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Motivated by recent news stories of children getting separated from their parents at the country’s southern border, local moms have collected more than a hundred donations in the last month for the children who have been displaced in New York.
Stuyvesant Town residents Rebekah Rosler and Emily Anderson, who started a company called MomMeetUps earlier this year for expectant and new mothers, reached out to their network when the story broke at the end of June and directed residents to drop off items at local shop Ibiza Kidz, where owner Carole Husiak, herself a Stuy Town resident, has also been soliciting donations from charitable people in the neighborhood through a Stuyvesant Town moms Facebook group.
“It was a community effort and because I’m a central neighborhood shop, it was a good place to bring things,” Husiak said. “That’s how it evolved. Everyone kind of jumped on it because we’re incensed by all this.”
Husiak has previously worked with civic-minded neighborhood residents, helping a local non-profit organization collect items for Syrian refugees last April. Husiak told Town & Village at the time that the organization was having trouble finding space for the donations so she volunteered her store as a drop-off site.
Both moms with toddler and infant-age children (Rosler has a two-year-old daughter and 9-month-old twins and Anderson has a 17-month-old daughter), the new business owners said that their call for donations came from a gut reaction to hearing the news about children and babies being separated from their parents.
“Our business model has been to support moms and we wanted to stay true to that,” Rosler said. “When we saw the news, we knew we had to do something. People were feeling helpless so we decided just to plan it so it would be easy to tell people what to do and where to go.”
They founded their company earlier this year to help out new and expectant moms, partially because of their own experiences with group activities during early motherhood, and to help prevent new moms from feeling isolated.
Rosler and Anderson left their previous jobs to focus on the company and Rosler, who had been working with a political lobbying group, said that she also left her job because she felt too entrenched in politics and needed a break, but the news about the family separations forced her to reconnect.
“I wanted to stop being in that space and wanted to refocus my energy,” she said. “I had been out of the political world for a few months and avoided most of the news but when I saw what was happening (with family separations), I couldn’t do nothing anymore.”
“Especially as a mother, it was gut-wrenching,” Anderson added.
Husiak, Rosler and Anderson said they were taking cues from local elected officials on what kind of items to donate, and the mayor’s office provided local elected officials with guidelines about what items are most needed, but Council Member Keith Powers said that the push for donations in the first place came from neighborhood residents.
“This has really been constituent-driven,” Powers said. “People were calling our office wanting to know what they could do. We heard that people ordered stuff online from Amazon and had it sent to our office if they couldn’t make it here to drop it off. I was really impressed by the residents in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper and what they were willing to give.”
Husiak estimated that about 40 to 50 families offered donations for each of the loads that have been collected so far. She and her husband, John, transported the third and most recent van-load last Tuesday morning to the Council Member’s office. Stuyvesant Town mom Maureen Rozanski, who participated in the previous donation efforts for Syrian refugees, came by to help Husiak load up the recent donations.
Powers noted that after assessing the donations that have come in since the end of last month, clothing and diapers are currently needed more than other items.
“Toys come in at a higher rate but clothes and diapers are most helpful because it’s an ongoing need,” he said.
Husiak will continue to collect donations at her store at 340 First Avenue and like Powers, said she was impressed by the number of residents willing to purchase new items on Amazon to contribute in addition to donating their own gently-used clothing and toys.
“It’s been amazing, the outpouring of generosity and goodwill,” she said. “It’s been quite inspiring.”