By Alyssa Konickson, '06
When Kathy (Schill) Schommer, ’07, ’10, ’11, moved to Florida in 2013, she found herself living in a beautiful new city, with her wonderful new husband, working in a fulfilling new career that aligned with her master’s degree in Social Work.
She was a family case manager at The Sulzbacher Center, a nonprofit agency specializing in the assistance of individuals facing homelessness. “I was really proud of that job,” Kathy said. “People I worked with had a whole host of needs and I was helping to connect them with resources to fill those gaps.”
And so, when she and Eric, ’07, ’13, learned that they had twins on the way, Kathy faced a difficult decision: to keep working at a job she loved, or to take some time off her career to care for her infant daughters. “I didn’t necessarily want to leave that job, but it just made sense at the time.”
When June and Lucy were born in February 2015, Eric, a recent medical school graduate, was working 60+ hours per week as a resident at Mayo Clinic and she found herself 1,800 miles from her family and support system back in North Dakota.
“Days got lonely during that transition,” she said.
Enter Jacksonville Mom, a locally focused parenting website written by other mothers in the area and part of the nationwide network City Mom Collective. “I was so far away from a lot of friends and family, and I found a community through them,” she said.
Kathy put her writing skills attained through her UND Marketing undergrad degree to use as a guest writer for the site. She also coordinated playdates and other events with other moms in the area, and she joined Postpartum Support International as a volunteer support coordinator, helping women in her area get connected to resources to address their postpartum mental health needs.
When she and Eric moved back to Fargo in 2018 to be closer to family with her then 3-year-old twins and 4-month-old daughter Margot in tow, she says she recognized a need. “I had never been a mom here, and I realized that parents didn’t have a singular resource for finding resources they need.”
She put her old skills of making connections to good use, and on January 22, 2020, parenting website Fargo Mom was born. On that same day, she also launched a postpartum support group for new mothers in Fargo.
“You go into social work because you want to help people, and I was missing that,” she said. “So, this was a way for me to go back to helping people – and I could do it largely from home.”
She has a team of about 35 mothers – including 9 UND alumni and counting – who voluntarily contribute regular content, but she hopes to grow her team into a few paid positions as the site becomes more established.
Kathy says that the COVID-19 pandemic has been an opportunity to showcase what Fargo Mom has always been about: helping moms connect with others going through similar experiences. When schools in Fargo closed and concerns started to grow, Fargo Mom published a comprehensive resource guide for local parents and began publishing up-to-date, relevant content to help moms in the area.
“We’re connecting with other moms over how scared and confused we are, but we’re also providing messages of hope and encouragement.” For example, the group has started a Mom Motivation Monday series, where they provide encouraging messages, such as “You are stronger than you know; take care of yourself!”.
In early April, Fargo Mom began selling “Strong as a Midwestern Mother” t-shirts, partnering with Shirts from Fargo and the United Way of Cass-Clay. All profits from the shirt sales are given to Home for Good, an initiative to provide home essentials to community members that are transitioning out of homelessness. “Home is such a safe place to be right now,” Kathy said. “We just like the idea of helping other families and individuals have a secure home with all the basics they need when they’re transitioning from homelessness to moving into a new home.”
It appears she’s come full circle. Kathy Schommer is back to helping the homeless – and an entire region of mothers along the way.