We have all heard the expression “it takes a village,” but at RFC, we know it to be true. We believe that no one was meant to parent alone and we strive to provide a safe, judgment-free space for families to support, connect, and grow with one another. Our programs, paired with an incredible resource network of professionals with training in this unique developmental stage of life, act as an essential safety net for the hundreds of families undergoing the transition from pregnancy to parenthood in our region. We are on the cusp of understanding the deep ripple effects that maternal mental health has in our society and RFC is poised to proactively address these important issues.
Who They Are
Recently, BACF intern, Ruby, had the privilege of sitting down with Suzanne and Kerry, two board members from the Roots Family Collaborative. Roots Family Collaborative is a local nonprofit committed to providing connection, support, and education for new parents in the Gallatin Valley. Their organization is a small and volunteer-led with a board consisting of three women, Suzanne Bendick, Molly Melzer, and Kerry Williams. They all contribute to the cause while also taking care of their own children, who were also the inspiration for this organization.
How It Started
Suzanne Bendick, along with professionals in the area realized the need for more support for mothers and families after giving birth. It is a monumental transition and navigating relationships (partners, friendships, family), emotions, and hormonal changes are all extremely difficult. The larger discussion taking place in the Gallatin Valley aimed to address the unmet mental health demands of parents in the area. In response she started her business, Fresh Air, through which she provided her postpartum doula services and lactation counseling. This connected her with the Montana Childbirth Collective, storyteller Melissa Bangs, and the Maternal Mental Health Collective which played an integral role in the development of the Roots Family Collaborative. Professionals in the community wanted to provide a resource guide of service providers, support, and education in the area for families to reference when in need of support for postpartum depression. The needs of families in the area ultimately led to the incorporation of the Roots Family Collaborative at the beginning of 2017.
BACF provides programming and assistance to area nonprofits to work toward the common goal of building a better community through important causes. In the early stages of development Roots Family Collaborative sat down with Bridget Wilkinson, Executive Director at BACF, to discuss whether or not the resource could “be a part of the fabric of our community”, and soon thereafter pursued becoming a nonprofit. The board members participate in the Nonprofit Cafe regularly and have been adamant about finding ways their cause can grow and impact more families. In May 2017, the Roots Family Collaborative participated in annual Give Big Gallatin Valley hosted by the Bozeman Area Community Foundation after participating in workshops to prepare for the event. A week after Give Big, The Roots Family Collaborative received a phone call from Bridget, with thrilling news; they had received a large donation from an individual that could be used to help pay for hiring a staff person. The donor advised fund they received would allow them to have staff take on the programming and outreach of Roots. Both the donations from Give Big and the donor advised fund gave Roots the boost it needed to continue growth in the community.
What They Do
As the Roots Family Collaborative continues to find their “roots” over the course of 2017, the programs and conversation about postpartum and the difficult transition into motherhood are bringing an important topic to light.
They provide two support groups, Blossom Mom and Infant and Pregnancy Loss Support Circle.
Another one of their projects, Mom’s Like Me, was created to shatter the myth of the postpartum experience. This event included storytelling and a panel of professionals who provided information and opened the dialogue about the reality of the postpartum period. This yearly event will take place again on May 5, 2018 at Pilgrim Church in Bozeman.
Additionally, Roots started a monthly event called re:Born where mothers, fathers, families, and friends can come to share their birth stories in a safe, nonjudgmental space.
They’ve also started a series of workshops called Mindful Mamas, combining yoga and conversations about the struggles new families face. The program was spearheaded by a mother, psychotherapist, and counselor. This collaboration has brought together important resources and an outlet for mothers.
Lastly, the Roots Family Collaborative hosted Conversations with Cocktails, an event where professionals could come to talk to each other about services they provide for mothers in the postpartum and families in that transition period.
The programming and support that Roots provides is unique in the state of Montana and the network it has created can provide people a space where they feel able to access the support they need.