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The sisterhood of a mothers group
By By Alica P. Thiele
Challenger reporter

April 12. 2013 12:55PM
In March, a group of local mothers held a birthday party for a little boy who would have been 2 that month. They released balloons in his honor, and the boy’s mother, Karri Allen, shared the occasion with them – her circle of friends, made closer by her son’s death last year.

Allen had been in the Mothers of Preschoolers group about a year when her son, Asher, died unexpectedly at age 15 months last July. Allen said her MOPS friends rallied around her, bringing meals to her home for the next four months. There were cards, phone calls, “and I new the prayers were there,” she said.

Like Allen, many MOPS members gain close friendships through the group. MOPS is a faith-based organization for mothers of children ages birth through kindergarten, with groups around the world. The local group meets at Brandon Lutheran Church twice a month for a meal and a program during the school year, and for Bible studies in the summer months. Childcare is provided.

Last week, the program was a sweet one. Brenda Score, whose sister, Jessica Bebensee, is a Brandon MOPS mom, showed the group how to make homemade marshmallows. Score has a food blog, A Farmgirl’s Dabbles, and was a MOPS member herself in the Minneapolis area when her daughters were younger.

“I’ve always felt that recipes are meant to be shared,” Score said. “I just think food just brings everyone together.”

Sometimes the MOPS program, such as the birthday party in March to honor Allen, are more serious. A few months ago, a speaker talked about sharing one’s grief after a death. Another speaker educated the moms about the dangers of sex trafficking.
Sometimes the program is a craft. The women have made necklaces, picture frames, advent calendars and placemats. Sometimes the program is a workout, such as Pilates.

While the mothers meet, the children, called mopettes, go to rooms by age group for play time and lessons of their own.

Liz Boyle lives in Hartford but recently joined the Brandon group because of mutual friends. She has a 19-month-old daughter and another child on the way. This is her first year in MOPS, and she appreciates the closeness of the group.

“I was very lonely (as a stay-at-home mom),” Boyle said. “I should have gotten out more. I joined to get connected with other Christian moms.”

Amy Van Es has been in MOPS for several years. She has a second grader, a first grader and a 5 year old. “So this is my last year,” she said. She said she will continue friendships with women she has met in the group and has enjoyed trading babysitting duties over the years and arranging play dates with the children.

Cindy Swenson’s children are grown, but she is in MOPS as a mentor mom, one of several in the group. Mentor moms, some of whom are grandmas, attend meetings to make the younger moms feel welcome and encourage them.

“It keeps me young, being around all these young people,” Swenson said.

Even though Allen’s son is no longer living, she continues to attend MOPS meetings. “I didn’t want to leave these women,” she said.

And, as much as the group has helped Allen through her grief, Allen has helped the group, MOPS leader Bo Dathe said.

“This woman (Allen) has been helpful to others by being real with her grief,” Dathe said with a tear in her eye.

“Most of my best friends, now, are in this group,” Allen said.
WHAT: Mothers of Preschoolers
WHEN: Twice monthly. Upcoming meetings scheduled for April 19, May 3, May 17
WHERE: Brandon Lutheran Church
TO LEARN MORE: Call leader Bo Dathe at 351-3864 or visit

Nicole Miller holds her son, Lennon, while she and Amy Van Es sample homemade marshmallows at last week's Mothers of Preschoolers meeting. The MOPS group meets twice a month at Brandon Lutheran Church. Photo by Alica P. Thiele

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