Kristina “Kricket” Dezendorf, a 36-year-old mom of two boys, ages 16 and 8, has a strong internet presence. As the creator of the Moms of Baton Rouge Facebook group, the largest group of its kind in the area, she has had her work cut out for her. However, that Facebook group has evolved into Baton Rouge Mom Network, a resource for mothers who crave connection with other moms and need guidance to tackle prominent issues like food insecurity.
BR Mom Network started in January of 2021 as an offshoot of the Facebook group and as part of an assignment for her Master of Social Work program. Kristina was inspired to start the group because she understood the struggles faced by young, single mothers because she had her first child at 19 years old. During COVID, she noticed an increase in moms needing assistance accessing resources in the city, mainly food. She wanted her project to be more than a simple checkbox for her Master’s degree–she wanted to go above and beyond for those in need.
“First, I tried to match moms with area resources, but we were met with so many barriers: food pantries that close at 4 or 5, before moms could get off work, lack of transportation or gas money, and extreme difficulties navigating the segmented resource allocation systems around the parish,” shares Kristina. “Our mission is about connecting moms together and connecting them to these resources easier. So, we connect moms with resources when we can, and fill in the gaps when we can’t.”
Today, the group is made up of three main components: an online support group, a monthly food box delivery service, and a birthday club. Each serves an entirely unique purpose.
The online support group is the Moms of Baton Rouge Facebook group, it is a safe space for moms to ask questions about anything Baton Rouge or parenting related. Admins also post evidence-based parenting information, local Baton Rouge events, resources and how to find them, and more.
The food box delivery service is completely volunteer-led and harnesses the resources of other area organizations. At the beginning of each month, they put out a newsletter with sign-up links and information about what resources are available. Through private donors and nonprofits, food orders are fulfilled. Secondly, families can indicate if they have other needs. Items like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, diapers, and wipes are the most commonly asked for.
The birthday club is run through partnerships with the Cortana Kiwanis Club and BREC. Each month, a sign-up is posted to nominate a child for a birthday party. Preference is given to wards of the state, foster children, or children whose families receive SNAP benefits. Once a child or two is picked by the committee, Committee Chair Lindsey Golden contacts that child’s caretaker to start planning. Everything needed for a themed party is covered: decorations, cake or cupcakes, snacks, and one wishlist item gift.
“We have served over 1400 families hot food or groceries. Celebrated birthdays with 8 kiddos. Passed out school supplies to 800 students. All since January 2021! On top of this, we participated in GIVE 365’s School Supply giveaway in July. There, we were able to pass out over 400 plastic pronged folders, 400 glue sticks, 100 Moms of Baton Rouge cups, and other school supplies,” says Kristina.
To continue their work, the project is in need of funding and a physical location to store food, necessities, and birthday supplies. They plan to become an official 501 (c)3 organization to help secure more funding and rent a small space.
With their own space, they dream to create a kids’ community closet where moms are able to find the clothes they need for their children for free. They also hope to make care packages of certain size clothes for moms who lack transportation. Thirdly, Kristina hopes to host a yearly “mom convention” where she can bring in parenting experts and allow parents to mingle, thus forming stronger community bonds.
To get involved, join Kristina’s Facebook Group “Moms of Baton Rouge” or her Instagram page, @BRmomnetwork. They are always looking for volunteers in the way of delivery drivers, coordinators, and dedicated community leaders who can help them strategize for the future. If you can’t volunteer, donations of cash, diapers, nonperishable food, and other necessities are also very helpful.
The Moms of Baton Rouge group is now 5.6k members strong and grows every day! They would love to add you to their numbers, encourage you, and spread the mom-to-mom love.