Neenah parish has special Mother’s Day collection for moms living at shelter

Project ‘helps us recognize these mothers who have turned lives around’

NEENAH — Moms need pampering and what better time to do that than Mother’s Day? About four years ago, that thought led to an annual service project at St. Gabriel Parish.

The Mother’s Day “Gifts and Cards for the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Shelter” grew out of a desire to “recognize mothers, especially those who might not otherwise be recognized,” said Chrissy Goethel, chairperson of the parish’s social justice committee.

Rita Hilliker, a member of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Neenah, places some her donated items into a collection box for the parish’s annual Mother’s Day “Gifts and Cards for the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Shelter” service project. (Brad Birkholz | For The Compass)

Committee member Paul Wolters and other parish members were volunteers at the shelter and would share their experiences, which led to the Mother’s Day service project. Parishioners are invited to bring gifts that will make the moms feel pampered. The committee recommends personal items, such as chocolates, scarves or accessories, tea, bath gel and lotion, Goethel said.

“We focus on these mothers, who are struggling so hard. Often, they come (to the shelter) with just the clothes on their backs. When you are in a situation like this, it’s hard to find value in yourself. It’s hard for children to respect their mothers in these situations,” said Goethel, who is a mother of eight.

“This is so touching for me. I can’t imagine being in a relationship that you have to struggle through and protect your kids,” she added. “This helps us recognize that these mothers have turned their lives around and offer them our support.”

People donating gifts also are asked to include a card with a note of encouragement, “which can mean a lot to these women as they struggle to heal from abuse and to care for their children,” said Goethel. She makes sure that every woman at the shelter gets at least one gift and card.

“Usually, we end up with more than one gift per person,” she added. “We have had tremendous response from the parish.”

The gifts are collected in the parish’s Stingle Hall until May 7 and delivered on Mother’s Day with the help of Kirkland Fischel of Two Men and a Truck. That company conducts an annual nationwide “Movers for Moms” drive to collect hygiene and other items for moms in shelters. With Fischel’s help, St. Gabriel Parish has partnered with Two Men and a Truck all four years.

The Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Shelter is located in Oshkosh. The nonprofit center was launched in 1984, serving women and children in Winnebago and Green Lake counties. It provides both shelter and community education on domestic abuse.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.ncadv.org) reports that “on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States,” which equates to more than 10 million women and men a year. “One in 15 children are exposed to such violence each year and 90 percent of these children are witnesses to the violence,” the coalition adds.