Last fall, Shana Rubin, who had an infant of her own, saw a pregnant mother living on the street, and knew she had to help.
“I had a visceral reaction to help her, knowing how difficult it was being pregnant and growing another human inside of myself,” Rubin told Metro on Mother’s Day Sunday. “I couldn’t imagine someone else living on the street and not having any resources.”
Six months later, NYC Mammas Give Back has about 15 volunteers, all of whom are mothers. The group is 501c3 pending, and provides quality, donated items to at-risk and homeless mothers in New York City.
Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio committed $22 billion of his $83.8 executive budget to his “One New York” plan for helping New Yorkers get out of poverty.
An estimated 2 million New Yorkers live in poverty. Numbers released last month show 18.3 percent of New York Country lives in poverty, and 30.7 percent of Bronx County, 23.7 percent of Kings County, 15.8 percent of Queens County and 12.1 percent of Richmond County. Both the New York State and national poverty rate is 15.9 percent.
Rubin, who is a psychotherapist, used her own experience working in the shelter system to help identify what new mothers really need.
“I think part of the issue is the quality of goods donated to a lot of these places, people kind of throw the items in the bag and send it off. One of the reasons why we’ve established such strong connections is because of the quality of items that are delivered. We check everything, we organize everything by gender, size, feeding supplies, and deliver it,” Rubin said. “I realized there was a gap (in services) by just how many resources we received in a day. And now some of the agencies are sending people directly to us.”
One of the agencies NYC Mammas Give Back partners with is Henry Street Settlement, a Lower East Side-based social services agency that served more than 50,000 people every year through housing, health care, social services, arts and other programs.
On Mother’s Day, city buses, subway and streets filled with women in their extra-extra Sunday best, carrying bouquets of cut flowers wrapped in paper and cellophane that could be bought at nearly every corner for the occasion.
On the Lower East Side, Yenny Eng, 36, bounced her five-month old baby Annette on her knee.
Eng, who said she previously worked at the 9/11 Museum, left her job to have Annette, and said she’s planning to be a stay-at-home mom for the near future so she can breastfeed.
“I don’t want to miss a moment, the crawling or the talking,” said Eng, who is originally from Indonesia.
Eng said she and her husband, Kevin, are currently living off of their savings, and rely on Medicaid to pay for medical bills. The new parents divide their time caring for Annette, whom Eng says is a curious baby who requires their undivided attention and sings herself to sleep every night.
Eng credits classes at Henry Street Settlement’s Parent Center classes with helping connect her with other supportive mothers. They share a vocabulary beyond baby talk, Eng said, and she starts each morning stretching and exercising her baby.
With Annette growing 10 pounds over the past five months, Eng said she’s grateful for baby clothes she’s received from NYC Mammas Give Back.
“She’s growing so quickly,” Eng said. “Boy clothes, girl clothes, I’ll take whatever I can get.”