What started with a tragedy is now a multi-faceted charity, providing supplies, emergency assistance and support to local moms and women. Launched in 2001, the Lauren Rose Albert Foundation began as a way to honor the memory of a Cherry Hill mom by helping other mothers thrive.
Susan Rose, president and founder, established the foundation in honor of her daughter, Lauren Rose Albert. Albert, a wife, the oldest of four sisters and mother of three young children, was killed in a car accident in 1999, leaving behind many friends and family, but also a legacy of caring and helping others lead better lives.
“We wanted to honor Lauren’s memory in some way,” her mother says. “Some friends suggested that perhaps we set up a scholarship in her name; we thought, ‘Maybe that … but more.’ It was 11 years ago, but it feels like yesterday.”
Rose, with the help of friends and family, wanted to help deserving women in areas where there were unmet needs. Their goal: to encourage mothers to achieve economically and educationally and to seek brighter futures for themselves and their families.
The Lauren Rose Albert Foundation’s first project was a gift basket drive, providing area women with personal care items and the gift of beauty.
“Women facing difficult challenges, whether emotional or economic, the last thing they are going to do is think of themselves in terms of personal care, beauty products or buying new clothing,” Rose explains. That thought sparked an idea to help local single parents by giving a Mother’s Day gift they wouldn’t normally purchase for themselves.
By word of mouth, the idea—dubbed “Mothers Matter”—spread and grew and donations came trickling in. Volunteers made 265 gift baskets the first year, which went to three day care centers and two women’s shelters in Camden County.
“Our little project just took on a life of its own,” Rose says. The foundation slowly added more and more schools to its annual collection drive, as well as local businesses, women’s groups and other volunteers collecting hundreds of products to fill the baskets.
More than a decade later, the project is about to reach a major milestone: prior to Mother’s Day, the Mothers Matter project will fill and distribute gift basket No. 20,000.
Two years ago, the foundation moved into its own year-round headquarters in Sewell, taking over the former public works and recreation building. “Previously, we borrowed space for six weeks each year to handle the gift baskets,” Rose says. “But now, we’ve expanded from just Mother’s Day to year-round operations.”
After the success of the program, Rose and her staff of volunteers set out to find additional unmet needs. They discovered many single mothers were struggling to keep costs down while trying to return to school.
“The scholarship program is the only program [we offer] that’s just for single mothers attending college,” she explains. “Most of them work because they’re maintaining a household; because of that, either their tenure in college is over a long period of years or longer than financial aid allowed, but one of the most difficult struggles is paying for textbooks.”
Working with six area colleges, including Rowan University, the foundation provides roughly 50 $250 scholarships each year to pay for books—and has granted more than $125,000 in total.
Heartfelt letters from recipients express just how meaningful these gestures are, and how greatly they’re needed. One woman wrote about having only $50 to live off each month after paying her rent and how the foundation’s scholarship helped her make ends meet. A representative at the Glassboro Child Development Centers said last Mother’s Day, the gift bags brought so much joy to both children and their mothers, saying, “Giving a woman self-confidence and helping her know that she is valued means everything.”
The foundation has also been working with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to provide gift bags to mothers whose children are hospitalized, Rose says. “These mothers … are only thinking of their hospitalized child as they spend many sleepless hours at their child’s bedside,” wrote Barbara Anne McCarty, child life coordinator, after volunteers brought gift bags last June. “They were happily surprised and comforted by [the] gift.”
Staffed by all volunteer efforts, the foundation has continued to tackle larger and larger projects each year, including its first-ever 5K charity run/walk in 2011. The newest branch of the foundation’s multi-pronged approach is in helping economically disadvantaged young women and mothers prepare for employment through a program called “Suited for Work.”
“When we first set out, I don’t even know what my expectations were; I knew it was to create something that would honor Lauren’s memory and do it in the best way that we could,” Rose says.
In the decade since her passing, Albert’s legacy has been present in all facets of the organization that has helped thousands of women to date, and it has given her mother some solace to know her personal tragedy resulted in something positive for others, even if there’s plenty of work still to be done. “It’s mind boggling when you think of the scope of the need we try to answer in the given year. It just keeps growing and growing,” Rose says.
A kickoff event for this year’s gift bag drive is planned for March 10 at the headquarters at 3 McClure Drive in Sewell. For more information or to get involved, contact MothersMatter@LaurensLegacy.org.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 12 (March, 2012).
For more info on South Jersey Magazine, click here.
To subscribe to South Jersey Magazine, click here.
To advertise in South Jersey Magazine, click here.