Mothers Club reaches out for 60 years

Joey Matthews | 12/9/2014, 6 a.m.
They were friends and young mothers raising babies. They began meeting in 1954 to share child-rearing tips, organize activities for ...
Members of the Mothers Club display food items collected recently for the kitchen at Hospital Hospitality House in Downtown. They are from left, front row, Grace Townes, Glenda Cooper, Charmaine Cooper-Jamison, Florence Cooper-Smith, Founder Esteletta Epps, President Esteletta Davis, Maridel Lee, Agnes Nicholson, Eleanor Binford and LaVerne Cooper. Back row, from left, Lisa Townes, Etta Plummer and Kathie Teasley. Photo by Sandra Sellars

They were friends and young mothers raising babies. They began meeting in 1954 to share child-rearing tips, organize activities for their children and socialize.

The group of about 10 Richmond women dubbed themselves “The Mothers Club.”

“We all had babies born in either 1953 or 1954,” recalled LaVerne Cooper, 83, the group’s vice president who lives in North Side. “We would meet with our babies in somebody’s backyard or in a living room with our babies in their carriages.

“We would talk about our babies,” she added. “For many of us, they were our first babies and we would share stories of being a new mother.”

About a year after the group was formed, the mothers decided to expand their mission to help others in the community.

“During those years, you had to take a longer maternity leave than you do now,” Mrs. Cooper explained. “We were not working and we decided we did not need to spend all of our time talking about babies. We decided to do something to help others.”

She said some of the group’s members were teachers, so their first community project was to help needy students and their families.

They bought books for students and clothing and food for their families.

Now, in its 60th year, The Mothers Club, which meets once a month, has increased its outreach efforts and done much more to help those in need.

Among their charitable efforts:

• They volunteer at the Hospital Hospitality House in Downtown where families live while a patient is in the hospital or undergoing rehabilitation.

• They save their pennies for the Children’s Miracle Network, donating about $100 per year to the organization.

• They support the Ronald McDonald House in the West End where seriously ill children live with their families.

• The club also selects people and families to assist each Christmas. They bought furniture and toys for a family whose house burned down, helped a grandmother who was raising her grandchildren after her daughter died and helped a single mother while she was attending college.

“We all seemed to have passion for helping others, but not just by sending a check,” Ms. Cooper said. “We like to be hands-on, bringing joy to the lives we touch.”

As families grew, the children were organized into “Lads and Lassies.”

They met and planned activities, including holiday parties and community outreach such as entertaining senior residents at Fay Towers in Gilpin Court.

In 1998, The Mothers Club opened its membership to daughters and daughters-in-law of club members to ensure longevity.

Esteletta Epps Davis, whose mother Esteletta Epps was a founding member of the club, is the club’s president.

“It’s a unique bond,” she said of the mothers, daughters and daughters-in-law. “You get a lot of different perspectives about different things. Most of the members are 80-plus years old. I believe the youngest just turned 50 this year.

“In a lot of ways, we can be the legs,” she said of the younger members. “We can be the branch to keep them current with technology and other things to help the club moving forward.”

Lisa Townes is another member who has followed in the footsteps of her mother, Grace Townes, to join the club. She said the club is proud of the work it does in the community.

“There are big Goliath organizations that don’t do as many of the kind of things we do,” she said. “We do it because we love to.

“It’s a family feel, it’s what our mothers have instilled in us to help the community.”

The Mothers Club also knows how to have fun. They go on cruises together, have picnics, throw a Christmas party each year and take day trips to various venues.

The club will celebrate its 60th anniversary Dec. 30 with a dinner and dance at a Richmond hotel.