Name: Bridget Cutler
Hometown: New Providence
Business: Moms Helping Moms, located in Warren
Category: Giving Back

COURTESY OF BRIDGET CUTLER

New Jersey Family: Tell us about Moms Helping Moms and your mission.

Bridget Cutler: Moms Helping Moms is a nonprofit diaper, period supply and baby supply bank. Our mission is to provide underserved families in New Jersey with equitable access to the essentials they need to provide their children with a safe and healthy start.

NJF: When did you launch Moms Helping Moms and what was your inspiration?

BC: Thirteen years ago as I was rocking my new baby to sleep I was reading an article about a new mother just like me – she was experiencing the love and profound joy of first-time motherhood. Unlike me, however, she was struggling to afford the basics she needed to keep her child fed, dry and healthy. No longer being able to bear the sound of her daughter crying from hunger, she made the unimaginable decision to give her up for adoption. I didn’t understand at the time why no one could help her or how this could happen in such a wealthy country. For the cost of a few cans of formula a month, that child could have stayed with her birth mother. At that moment I knew that I couldn’t move forward without doing something.

COURTESY OF BRIDGET CUTLER

NJF: How did you go from the idea of wanting to help underserved families get the baby essentials they need to launching your non-profit?

BC: I started this initiative in a very simple way – I began collecting baby supplies from families who had an excess with the intent of donating them to a nonprofit that could get them to the families who needed them. I quickly learned that there was no central agency in New Jersey that was helping underserved families with free baby essentials. Left without many options, I decided I would distribute the items myself and began doing so outside of my little garage in Hoboken. Once I saw the need and the gratitude from families who were receiving these items, I realized that we were filling a huge need. Along with a few friends, we continued to grow our program little by little. Thirteen years later we are serving over 160,ooo individuals per year and counting.

NJF: What are some of the obstacles you faced along the way?

BC: It’s hard to know where to start! Since we did not go into this with a clear plan, we had to work very hard to get to where we are today. We started with zero dollars or assets and minimal knowledge of the hurdles that our families were facing, and we all had newborn babies so finding time was hard. It was difficult to operate without having consistent storage space or time – but we managed to do it anyway. It took us a very long time to raise enough money to be able to afford space and then staff. And an even longer time before we felt like we had our heads above water. We made many mistakes along the way but we learned from all of them – and we proved that you shouldn’t underestimate what women with a mission can accomplish. As Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

NJF: You have been featured as a CNN Hero! How did that impact your visibility and the cause?

BC: The CNN Hero feature was such an incredible honor! At the time of airing, we were still very small – we were operating out of a donated storage unit still paying for things out of our own pockets. Once the CNN Hero piece aired, we received a lot of attention and donations followed. It wasn’t a windfall – but it was enough to propel us forward a good deal. We were able to rent a small storage space instead of having to move in and out of donated spaces every few months. And we were able to hire someone to help us out part-time, which really helped us to get organized. Even though it seems like a small thing, this was a huge steppingstone and we have been building on it ever since. I believe it would have taken us much longer to get to where we are today if it wasn’t for that recognition. I am so grateful to CNN for this program – I know it has helped so many others who are doing amazing work in the world.

COURTESY OF BRIDGET CUTLER

NJF: What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

BC: Knowing that the work we do helps keep babies healthy, prepares young kids for school, allows people who menstruate to attend school or work regularly, and allows parents to attend work or school so that they can support their families.

NJF: What was your proudest moment running Moms Helping Moms?

BC: Last year at our gala our keynote speaker was a woman and mom who had received support from us when she was a teen mom. She described how different her life would have been if not for the support of Moms Helping Moms and another incredible program and a longtime partner, the Plainfield High Teen Parenting Program. She went on to describe how her life did turn out. She graduated high school, then college and then a master’s program. She got married, had two more children and even wrote a book. She was able to reach her full potential in life and now her children will be able to also. Just hearing one story like that means everything. Its easy to get caught in the minutiae day to day – this was an amazing reminder that what we do really matters.

NJF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten about running a non-profit that you want to share with others?

BC: Find mentors and lean on them! Running any business is hard – nonprofits face many unique challenges. Many founders come into the nonprofit world with little experience and so much to learn, just as I did. Figuring out even small things can feel insurmountable and there often are no funds to hire consultants or other professionals to help. There is no need to recreate the wheel – find mentors who do similar work. In our experience, people are always happy to help and it can save a lot of time and frustration. And what better way to learn than from the experts!

NJF: Who are your partners and how have they helped you advance your mission of helping moms in need?

BC: Our partners are social service agencies such as food pantries, homeless and domestic violence shelters, ministries and healthcare agencies. They order from us once per month and we provide them with the essentials they need. Families not only receive our diapers, but they receive other services from our partners to assist them with their needs. Moms Helping Moms and our partner’s missions tend to align, which is why we work so well together.

NJF: What’s it like juggling raising kids with running Moms Helping Moms?

BC: Juggling raising kids with just about anything else is a lot of work! I won’t say it has been easy – I have to remind myself that I am only one person and can only do so much. Sometimes I need to prioritize my work over my kids and vice versa – and it’s not always clear which should come first. I just try to do my best everyday while remembering that my best might look different from day to day. I try to give myself breaks – not something I did when I was younger.

On the positive side, my kids have grown up alongside Moms Helping Moms and have learned so many valuable life lessons along the way. They understand things about the world that I didn’t even understand before I started doing this work. They have learned alongside me and they’ve watch me hustle and struggle for something I believe in. So it has been well worth it.

NJF: What do you love most about living in Warren?

BC: I actually live in New Providence. I love New Providence because it’s a small, diverse, tight-knit community. If your kids are out and about chances are there are parents around with eyes on them.

COURTESY OF BRIDGET CUTLER / Bridget with, from left, her husband Dave, son Declan and daughter Brynn

NJF: What are some of your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?

We are huge beach lovers – my kids surf so we spend most of the summer on the beach. Long Branch and Asbury are our favorites. When it’s not beach weather, we love trying new restaurants and will pretty much go anywhere where there’s live music or a fun show. We live really close to the Prudential Center and the Mayo PAC so we try to take advantage of those as often as possible.

NJF: What’s next for Moms Helping Moms?

BC: We are excited to soon launch a new mobile outreach program that will allow us to serve even more individuals in south and northwest New Jersey. We will use our very first Moms Helping Moms van to deliver diapers, period products and baby supplies to partners who are not able to access our warehouse to pick up these items.

NJF: What can our readers do to help underserved families? What are some easy ways we can all make a difference and help those in need?

BC: Find out what programs exist in your community and support them – volunteer, donate, follow them on social media, talk about their work. We all need that support – it is invaluable. If you are interested in helping Moms Helping Moms, visit our website to donate and learn about volunteer opportunities, and follow us on social media.

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