The women began to purchase extra soap and toothpaste while shopping for their own families. They filled their carts with granola bars, fruit cups, and crackers. When the group’s December meeting time arrived, the members gathered in the Tudor Room at the Indiana Memorial Union to assemble their offerings.
Peterson packed everything into reusable market bags and a rolling suitcase. She then drove to the offices of the women who could not attend the meeting and picked up their donations, as well. She managed to fill the large trunk of her Honda CR-V twice.
“When we got to the school and unloaded, the atrium was overflowing with donations,” Peterson said. “You could barely walk in.” When the drive concluded, the Templeton PTO was able to not only offer students packages for the winter—it was able to offer each student a monthly package until summer break, as well.
IU Working Moms was founded in 2009 by Peterson, an academic advisor at the time, and several colleagues. The founding members modeled the group after groups seen at other universities. “A bunch of us were pregnant with our firsts,” Peterson said. “We knew each other but weren’t great friends yet, and we wanted to have support during the work day.”
Now the group spans generations. Some members have children who are in their 20s, while others are currently expecting. They gather monthly over questions, advice, and emotional support. They occasionally host speakers, but they mostly focus on social connection, work-life balance, and service-related activities that support the community’s children.
Since the Templeton drive, the group has plunged into additional service projects. In December 2017, its members gathered formula, wipes, and diapers for the Shalom Community Center. In July 2018, they contributed school supplies to the Teacher’s Warehouse stuff-a-bus event. “School supplies and diapers,” Peterson said. “Those two things are so expensive, but I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a kid and not have them.”
In 2019, Peterson requested that members offer financial donations—through the group or individually—to the Community Kitchen of Monroe County. The group met for its monthly lunch at Mother Bears in late July, and Peterson collected cash donations. “I’ve been told again and again that it is lovely to give food, but if you can give cash, the nonprofit will be able to use it for their most urgent need.”
Peterson looks forward to new projects for the new academic year. “I like to wait and see where the urgent need is,” she explained. She is always heartened by the enthusiasm of the group’s members, though, and the conversations that swirl around each new activity.
IU employees can request to join the IU Working Moms Facebook group in order to receive group announcements and updates.