In 2012 Natalie Boyle brought beautiful twin girls into the world, with no idea the struggles she would face over the next two years. Six weeks after giving birth Natalie experienced health crisis after health crisis – an emergency hysterectomy, ulcerative colitis, colon surgery, and thyroid cancer. With seemingly endless appointments at the hospital and various doctor’s offices, Natalie hired a nanny to care for her babies and relied on family members to help fill the gaps. Even with steady income, round-the-clock childcare was a financial burden, and took an emotional toll as well.
After Natalie began her journey back to health, she joined a MOPS group at Fellowship Bible Church and found a mentor in Tracy Jager, as well as some much needed community. One of her new friends, Annie Nace, was diagnosed with colon cancer and struggled to find childcare for her two young children while she received chemotherapy and other treatments. Natalie and Tracy came together and began raising funds to cover Annie’s childcare. The need was obvious to their group, and Natalie’s passion for the cause helped to bring in over $10,000.
When Natalie took a step back, she realized this was not a one-time need for a friend. Her own experiences and health crises were still clear in her mind as she made the decision to launch a nonprofit organization – Mommies in Need. They received 501(c)3 status in a lightning-fast six weeks and Tracy came on as the first board member.
Now in their fifth year of operations, Mommies in Need has a team of ten, with four office staff and six full time nannies. Moms facing health issues like cancer can apply for a six month period of in-home child care. Priority is given to parents who need full-time care for children under the age of five. Their team does their best to ensure the same nanny through the duration of the medical treatment, providing a sense of stability for the family. “I’ve seen the generosity of our families come full circle,” Natalie shared. “People who have received services from us then pay it forward and help us to fundraise.” When Annie passed away in February of 2018, the Mommies in Need team knew the legacy would need to continue in honor of their friend.
In 2018, Natalie began to think about future programming and the gaps that their service wasn’t able to fill. For locations where nannies couldn’t travel, or families that didn’t quite meet eligibility requirements, full time nannies weren’t an option. But Natalie still saw the need for all mothers to be able to continue regular treatments rather than missing appointments due to a lack of childcare. Her next big step needed more organizations to come alongside the Mommies in Need mission.
Thanks to grants from the Simmons Sisters Fund at The Dallas Foundation and The Hoglund Foundation, and in collaboration with Parkland Hospital, Mommies in Need is launching a new program this fall. Parkland is providing a 4,500 SF space on their campus to Mommies in Need for a drop-in facility, lovingly named Annie’s Place. This facility will provide care for up to 75 children of Parkland patients, staffed with Mommies in Need nannies. By eliminating the difficulties of finding and paying for a daycare or nanny, Annie’s Place relieves the stress and worry of childcare during times of medical crisis, allowing mothers to receive the treatment they need to be healthy again.
Construction will soon be underway, with $100,000 of design and pre-construction services provided pro-bono by The Beck Group. Jennifer Cull, an associate principal and lead architect on Annie’s Place began their work with a Pinterest visioning board and a lot of collaboration. “We started by listening to the needs and what Natalie envisioned the space would look and feel like,” Jennifer said. “We want the Mommies in Need team to feel connected to the design-build process, so we took our vision board and started working toward a comfortable and inviting space where parents would feel confident leaving their children. The space is going to be clean, bright, and elegant. And through the entire process I’ve been overwhelmed by how gracious the Mommies in Need team has been.” The Beck Group intends to expand their pro-bono services into construction, providing at-cost oversight and working closely with subcontractors to keep prices low for this community-focused project.
Mommies in Need is also working with strategic partners in the medical field to begin research around the idea that childcare creates a measurable difference in women’s health outcomes. This research will allow the Mommies in Need model to be scaled and replicated at hospitals around the country.
“Our goal is always to form communities around our families,” said Natalie. Through in home care, research, and Annie’s Place, Mommies in Need is certainly creating community and honoring the memory of Natalie’s dear friend by serving families from across DFW in a critical time of need.
If you would like to learn more about Mommies in Need or make a donation to Annie’s Place, you can visit their website. You can also make a special Mother’s day donation! With a donation of $200 or more (or signing up for a $25+ monthly donation), you can honor a mom in their life and Mommies in Need will add their name to a plaque that will hang at Annie’s Place.
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Story by Mary Martin. Portrait photo by Hunter Lacey. Family photo courtesy of Natalie Boyle.