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Toi Nichols knows that motherhood takes a village, and hopes that through her nonprofit organization, M.O.R.E. Mothers, moms in need will find community to lean on.
The nonprofit, founded in 2020, offers a delivery service for essential baby items, as well as educational programming, workshops, support groups, and connection to resources for Long Beach mothers.
Nichols is familiar with the financial and emotional difficulties that motherhood can bring—when she gave birth to her first son in 2018, she experienced a traumatic nerve injury leaving her in a wheelchair for about eight weeks.
Not only was she unable to care for her child in the way she’d originally anticipated, but she lost her job, and in turn, her insurance.
As Nichols struggled to navigate finding financial support, eventually receiving Medi-Cal benefits, she began to recognize the unmet need within her own community.
Not only were resources difficult to find, but the process felt disempowering, Nichols said.
“When I did have to go down to the Department of Social Services, it wasn’t glamorous,” Nichols said. “I wouldn’t feel good about myself when I left out of there.”
As Nichols both physically healed and regained financial stability, she began to find new purpose in her work, after leaving behind a career in the fashion and entertainment industry.
Inspired by the idea to create an organization that empowered women while linking them to resources, M.O.R.E. Mothers (“motivation, opportunities, resources, empowerment”) began to take form.
“You could be flying high one day, and then just the bottom fell out for me, and I really never looked back at what I was doing, because I was so passionate about what was in front of me and what I had been through and what so many other women are going through,” Nichols said.
She enrolled in business courses at Long Beach City College when her son was 6 months old, graduating with an associate’s degree in 2020, and she began connecting with mothers throughout Long Beach.
Whether it was helping them receive their paid family leave or applying for CalFresh, Nichols made sure to leave each woman feeling better than before their conversation, she said.
“Motherhood can be lonely, pregnancy can be lonely,” said Nichols.
For many new mothers, it can be difficult finding their voices in their new lives, she said.
“That’s something that we really tried to focus on, like Mom matters, and you still are you after you have the baby,” Nichols said.
Channeling her creative energy into her organization, Nichols is a strong believer of “you look good, you feel good,” she said. Presentation is important in every aspect of M.O.R.E. Mother’s services, from the delivery items to the workshops, all aimed at making moms feel special, she said.
“I was able to take something that was very traumatic for me and build something beautiful out of it,” Nichols said.
In the organization’s short lifespan, its delivery service has grown from Nichols and her husband delivering diapers, wipes, and other essential items three times a month to a full-fledged service called Motherhood Together, serving 148 women and children in the month June 2022.
“I just feel like I’m here to serve other women, and I had a lot of women that helped me and I’m in turn just trying to do the same,” she said. “It warms my heart, every minute, it’s the most rewarding work, it’s a huge part of my healing process because it was tough going through what I was going through … mentally, physically, emotionally tough, and the birth of M.O.R.E. Mothers, which I call my third child … really helped me blossom and bloom into a Toi 2.0.”
M.O.R.E. Mothers is extremely personal, Nichols said, and she is constantly trying to gauge the needs of her community and tailor services based on that.
“Everyone’s situation is different, but I’ve been somewhere on their journey … of trying to get resources, looking for them, stressing about how to pay for something, all while trying to raise a child,” said Nichols, who gave birth to her second son in January, and understands the experience of being pregnant through COVID-19, she said.
With support from sponsorships such as Baby2Baby and guidance from the Black Health Equity Collaborative of Long Beach, the nonprofit has grown to offer even more to mothers.
Apart from the delivery service, moms receive education with a quarterly program, covering everything from finding resources, healthy living, maternal healthcare, lactation and baby basics, plus safety.
Mothers can also attend workshops based on topics they’ve requested, ranging from CPR training to fitness, or receive support through “S.O.U.L. Circle” — support and group therapy sessions that the organization is aiming to offer each month in addition to a monthly workshop.
Nichols hopes that in the future, the organization will be able to offer programming specifically for teen mothers, and that it will someday have its own resource center to call home.
“I just want to continue and see M.O.R.E. Mothers really have an impact for women in this community,” said Nichols, who hopes that the organization will play a role in improving maternal care for women of color in particular.
For the women who receive services or attend workshops or support groups, Nichols hopes that they leave feeling more confident, whether it’s about their labor and delivery, or about their motherhood, she said.
“My hope is that they get a really good experience and feel good about themselves as a woman after being a part of M.O.R.E. Mothers, and that they feel like they’re part of a community, part of the village, part of our family, and that they have someone they can turn to,” Nichols said.
As part of the village mentality, the women of M.O.R.E. Mothers frequently step up for each other, whether it’s sharing resources, connecting over common experiences, or donating items themselves when they’re no longer needed, said Nichols.
“I have a lot of love for the city, I reside in the city, raising my kids in the city now too, and it just seems like this is where I need to be,” Nichols said. “As we continue to have so much support behind us, I know I’m doing the right thing.”
If you are interested in donating unused baby essentials, or offering a service or workshop to mothers, get in touch at [email protected] or 562-850-5051. To receive a delivery or participate in a workshop, sign up online.
Support M.O.R.E. Mothers during this year’s Long Beach Gives on Sept. 22.