MOMS, quilters, graduates offer support networks for women


April 19, 1999|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IN THE MIDST of our frenetic culture, women are stitching together ways to support each other.

More than 75 women attended an open house Tuesday for a new chapter of the MOMS Club -- one based in Ellicott City. Most of the women brought young children to the meeting at First Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The children's squeals and chatter reverberated off the tile floor as Linda Lagala-Spano of the MOMS Columbia chapter explained that MOMS stands for Mothers Offering Mothers Support.

She noted that the club recognizes the sacrifices that mothers and families are making -- financially, socially and professionally -- to have women stay at home with their children.

The MOMS Club was founded in California in 1983. The international organization boasts 700 chapters and 45,000 members.

The group's Columbia chapter, the first in Howard County, was started in 1993. The chapter has grown so rapidly that it has sponsored three sister chapters, so women could meet in their own communities.

At First Lutheran Church, the room was filled with women talking to each other.

Julie Sestrick brought her mother and her 16-month old daughter Katherine to the meeting.

Sestrick said she will move to Ellicott City in June. She and her husband live on a 4-acre lot outside of Westminster, where they have trained German shepherds. There are no sidewalks there and "everyone sticks to themselves," Sestrick said.

She would like to meet friends who have babies, rather than dogs. And her husband wants to cut his commute to spend more time with their daughter.

"We're just excited to be down here," Sestrick said.

Karen Mitchell held her 7-month-old daughter Shannon on her lap. The baby was dressed in a pale pink, two-piece playsuit and lace-topped socks.

Mitchell, who has agreed to serve as the club's treasurer, had been working 50 to 60 hours a week as regional controller for a health service corporation. She and her husband, Darryl, agreed that she should stay at home for at least a year after Shannon was born.

But Mitchell says it has not been easy. Her daughter was quiet and engaged in activities at the meeting, but "when she gets home, she terrorizes the dog."

Another group member, Anne Mohler, will plan the club's service project.

Mohler, a registered stockbroker, sells mutual funds to maintain her broker's license. She leads financial seminars at play groups on Fridays, while her father baby-sits her daughters -- Cassie, 4, and Caroline, 2.

Some mothers sell toys, kitchenware or cosmetics for franchised companies, Mohler said.

She and her husband grew up in Columbia Hills.

Her mother had been active in the American Association of University Women, as was another Ellicott City resident, Joetta Cramm. Cramm, a local historian and member of the AAUW, moved here with her husband in the 1960s when staying at home was common for women, she said.

"A woman could join the PTA, the League of Women Voters or the AAUW," she said.

Cramm joined the AAUW, which has 64 members of varying ages and a wide variety of activities.

For information about AAUW, call 410-992-0173.

The MOMS Club offers more than 25 activities for mothers and their children each month: play groups, baby-sitting cooperatives, a service project, workshops on child-rearing, a book club, a gourmet club and other interest groups.

Trish Keller, mother of two, has agreed to serve as president for the Ellicott City chapter.

The new club has attracted 75 people and filled every leadership position.

Lagala-Spano says that the clubs in Howard County are attracting women with college or advanced degrees.

Keller, a nurse, points out that these mothers are used to being very active.

Last year, the Columbia chapter sponsored the MOMS Club of Elkridge.

The Elkridge group meets at 10: 15 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at Elkridge Baptist Church, 5929 Setter Drive.

At a meeting this week, Claire Myer, a representative of Maryland KISS (Kids in Safety Seats), will discuss car-seat safety checks.

For membership information in Elkridge, call Lisa Faulkner at 410-796-5670.

Quilters piece together

Another local women's group with an interesting history is the Milltown Quilters, which started in the annex at St. Paul's Church some years ago.

The group -- a 70-member chapter of the National Quilters Association -- had been dormant for some time and became active again two years ago.

On any given week, more than half the members attend the meeting at 10 a.m. Mondays at the First Presbyterian Church of Howard County. Members eat lunch together, and once a month, they tie quilts -- connecting the various layers -- for charity.

When a member is ill, each member of the group pieces together a heart for them out of various fabrics. The hearts are signed, dated and sent to the ill member. Often, the hearts are saved and made into wall hangings to honor friendships.

Last weekend, the group held its first Quilt Show at St. Paul's Catholic Church in Ellicott City.

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