Everywhere you look, moms are changing the world around them. YOU are no exception. Whether you’re delivering a fresh diaper for a little one, a healthy lunch for a tween, a lecture on life’s big questions to your teen, or a steady 9-to-5 to provide for your family, you are making a difference in the lives of others and simultaneously shaping the future.
Together, Quad Cities moms are connecting and making positive change. As one mom interviewed for this post points out, “Quad City moms are extremely engaged in their children’s sporting events, musicals, band concerts, school functions, PTA/PTO, and their family’s churches, neighborhoods, community events/fundraisers, service organizations, and social groups. It is through those events and activities that women are able to connect with other moms and build great friendships.” Here are three among us who have devoted themselves to serving others. They are Quad-City-mom-world-changers who are leading the way.
Melissa Pepper | Founder of Lead(h)er and mom to Grayson (2)
How did you know you wanted to start a nonprofit? A little over a year ago, I made a major career change, achieving a long-term goal I set for myself. As I reflected on how I made it to this point, I realized that having a mentor and being involved in the community were major factors in my ability to make this change. That realization led me to want to harness the power of doing good with having someone alongside of you on your journey. Enter Lead(h)er, which focuses on both career and community engagement instead of just the career trajectory. I believe success and fulfillment happens when they are hand in hand.
Tell us about Lead(h)er’s mission: Lead(h)er fuels career and community engagement for young professional women through our Strike a Match mentorship program. We pair an experienced leader with each young woman to help them achieve the goals they set for themselves—to date we’ve matched over 80 women with mentors!
What is something you believe to be unique and true of Quad Cities moms? What an amazing tribe of moms we have! I caught the awful pneumonia bug going around in January followed by our third miscarriage in February. I felt like 2017 had kicked me in the gut and then taken my whole chocolate stash. Through the physical and emotional pain, my spirits were lifted by the outpouring of support from the mama community: home-cooked dinners brought, wild two-year old boy entertained, hugs offered. It was truly amazing.
Why do you believe in serving others and spending your energy outside of yourself and your family? No matter how much you love your “day job,” there are parts of you that are untapped, right? Why wouldn’t you use those to make this world better than you found it and help improve the lives of others in your community? To paraphrase one of my favorite quotes: “Find what makes you come alive and go do it. The world needs more people who have come alive.” This is why I spend time outside my family. I have found something where my passion aligns with a need in this community, and I feel called to do something about it. Not to mention, I believe it’s important for my son to grow up witnessing a mom who’s on fire for this community and making it better. I hope he’ll find his own passion and do the same.
Amy R. Rowell | Executive Director of World Relief and mom to Sonu (17), Golu (17), Anna (14), and Jude (11)
How did you know you wanted to lead a nonprofit? My entire career has been in not-for-profit service. From a very young age, I recognized my desire to serve others. Working in different positions has given me the knowledge and experiences to gain an understanding of social justice and God’s call for us to love all people.
How do you balance your work for the world and being a mom? I have found it to be important to be fully engaged in the moment. We teach our children and live by the following order of importance: (1) God, (2) Family, (3) Work/Education. Intentional living is critical for peace in my life. Engaging my family in my work and my work into my family creates a bridge between both. At the same time, I take time for personal self-care. It is important to live in that balance, and yet at times when I’m not able to, I try to recognize the season and take time away from everything and everybody to spend time with God and myself in order to re-balance.
Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration from those I serve and from being in authentic relationships with amazing people from around the world witnessing raw HOPE for life.
Why do you believe in serving others and spending your energy outside of yourself and your family? Serving others is what I believe God created all of us to do. Providing selfless acts of love and kindness to others is the simplest commandment. Being a servant can mean many things—not just doing, but teaching, guiding, showing, and just being in the presence of another human being. Ultimately, I believe we desire to be in relationship. It is within these relationships that we are able to serve one another.
How has the work you do been fulfilling to you personally? Serving refugees and local churches has taught me that regardless of the horror and hurt in this world, showing love and compassion for others provides a sense of HOPE that everyone deserves.
Laura Torgerud | Co-founder and Executive Director of The Legacy Project and mom to Abby (11)
How long have you been involved with The Legacy Project? I first spoke of The Legacy Project in December 2014 and planning (with co-founder and president of the board chair Nicole Rathje) began soon after that. However, it has existed spiritually for many years.
What is the mission of The Legacy Project: Our mission is to protect the legacy of moms lost by girls and young women of the Quad Cities. Each motherless girl, with support from a trained mentor, will map out how her mom’s legacy will be cultivated — perhaps through journaling, interviewing, scrapbooking, cooking, or artistry.
How did you know you wanted to start a nonprofit? I remember being a motherless girl. I knew I wanted to support and encourage motherless girls and young women, and have the honor of walking with them on their journey while they reflect on their beautiful mom and protect her legacy.
How do you balance your work for the world and being a mom? Is that a thing? Women do that? Ha! My work for the world helps me be a better mom, and my role as mom inspires me to do good in the world. They are interconnected and overlapping. Do I do them both perfectly? Hardly. But I do the best I can, which is perfect for me. I want my daughter to see that people can and do serve many roles as responsible people who care about the world they live in.
Where do you find inspiration? Mostly in listening to others’ stories. Everyone has their own unique, beautiful, and sometimes messy story. Each one is inspiring to me, and makes me a better person. I also find inspiration in authors, blogs, and podcasts. Hearing stories, listening to others’ ideas, and learning new things keep me motivated to do what I do.
How has the work you do been fulfilling to you personally? I get out so much more that what I put in to this project. There are times I feel guilty, because I find so much joy in doing what I’m doing. My hope and prayer is that everyone finds something that brings them this much joy—and mother loss is not a joyful subject. Having the opportunity to walk alongside motherless girls, hear their stories, and get to know their mothers through their eyes is such a gift. We can’t bring her back to life, but we can give life to her memory.
Learn more about Laura and The Legacy Project online.