WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s a week before her two elementary school-age girls are supposed start school and Hannah, a newly single Westfield mom, could be facing eviction.
Her friend Melanie Schreiber knew where to ask for help. She created a GoFundMe site and posted the link in the Westfield Area Single Moms Facebook group. Soon other single mothers were donating and sharing advice, support and necessities like food, clothes and school supplies, which are being collected for the family at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield. More than $800 has been raised so far.
It’s just the latest example of this online community’s efforts to support each other. Moms in the group, now at more than 55 members, live in a variety of circumstances. Some are newly single, looking for divorce lawyers. Some never married. The overwhelming sentiments among them are joy and relief connecting with other single moms in what feels like a suburban sea of couples.
“This group is so important to me,” founder Christine Kamienski said. “I felt so alone as a single mom in Westfield and was excluded from so much. I wasn't even sure there’d be one member other than me. We have become an amazing group of friends who can ask anything, talk about anything and support each other like no other friends I have. I don't feel alone at all anymore.”
Since its creation in April, many of the Facebook group’s members have met in real life. On the page, they plan nights out together, post inspirational and funny memes and share helpful articles. They write about their struggles and post encouraging comments.
“The support is positive and unwavering,” April Stec, one of the group’s moderators, said. “The ladies offer advice, laugher and prayers. The wonderful things I can say about Christine Kamienski and this group of fabulous women are endless. What I love most of all is the friendships we've made that have continued outside of the Facebook world.”
Brenda Acanfora, who was born and raised in Westfield, said the group has been empowering, supportive and non-judgmental.
“You can say we are a family because we give unconditional love and support to one another,” Acanfora said. “We are there for one another twenty-four/seven with advice and an ear to listen, no matter what time it is. Being a mom is hard enough with life's demands. Being a single mom adds a bit more to the plate. This group is one of the best things I have gotten out of Facebook.”
Some use the group to pay it forward.
“When I moved here, it was not easy being a single mom in an area where everyone seemed to have a significant other,” member Bridget Cassidy said. “Now that the kids are grown, I feel that I can lend support and understanding for all that we go through as single moms. This group has helped me overcome the empty nest syndrome and made me feel as though they are my ‘sisters.’ We support each other through thick and thin.”
Member Anne Thomas said the group gave her support when she was new to town.
“I recently moved to Westfield from Arkansas and the biggest blessing was finding out about this group,” Thomas said. “I remember filling out the emergency contact forms when enrolling my daughter in school and aftercare and having that awkward moment of having to leave it blank. Thanks to this group, I no longer have that to worry about. When people ask me what it's like to live in New Jersey, I'm so proud to tell them about the downtown area, schools and this group as the highlights of Westfield.”
To request membership in the group, click here.