Recently, I spoke with Maria Wehrle, founder and director of Mothers in Need of Others (MINO).
In 2004 she took a “spiritual gifts” class at church, hoping to learn what she might do next with her life. It was the last day of class, and Maria, a mother of six, had not gotten any answers yet. Then a woman stood up, panicked, and in tears.
In Maria’s words…
“She just found out she was having triplets. I only had mine one at a time and didn’t know what it was like to have a bunch at once. I knew what it was like to have a large family. The emotional and financial stress (is) a real challenge. My heart went out to this lady…I was trying to figure out how I could help her. (As I cooked) dinner that night, I saw M-I-N-O in the back of my mind.
What does MINO stand for?
Mothers in Need of Others started simply. “I gathered 14 women from my church. We made meals, collected car seats, strollers, anything for moms in a crisis in our church.”
Two years later Maria received a call from someone in Rochester. Would she be willing to help moms in the inner city? She did not hesitate. “I packed up my car, and we drove around, delivering things to moms.” In 2006, MINO became a ministry under the non-profit, Project URGE, Inc. URGE was instrumental in helping Maria to network and collaborate with others in the field.
And the rest is history. I find it amazing how the Lord speaks to people through others, guides them to His will, and then blesses their work.
MINO grew, and now works with 141 agencies, churches, schools, and daycare programs providing them with emergency supplies for the families they care for. They receive financial support from grants, churches, fraternal organizations, private donors and others like the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, and the Boy and Girl Scouts who run donation drives.
Case Managers (social workers, pastors, and others who work through various agencies) turn to MINO for help for the moms and children on their caseloads or in their churches.
Although the best kept secret among case managers of all stripes, individuals remain MINO’s greatest supporters.
- A woman in Greece sews bags to hold hygiene items, that are SO needed.
- There’s a cadre of super couponers who find those bargains, along with the Dollar Tree which offers inexpensive quality hygiene and cleaning supplies which MINO purchases with grants and monetary donations to distribute to families in need.
- A woman in her 90s knits baby blankets.
- Churches, day care centers, and schools also help.
Maria said MINO is an eco-friendly organization. “Everyone has something to give.” She readily accepts partial packages of diapers, individually wrapped feminine products and nursing pads, unopened, unexpired formula and baby food, hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and baby gear (strollers, pack n plays, highchairs, activity seats, etc.) “People are so generous, especially in Rochester…all you have to do is make your needs known.”
MINO now has 1000 followers on Instagram and Facebook as well as a newsletter.
How does it operate?
MINO does not give directly to families but works through “case managers.” A mom in need only has to call 211 to find organizations that have case managers, if they are not hooked up already. MINO works through the managers to bring supplies to the moms for three reasons.
- Mom may not have transportation to get to MINO.
- Moms don’t have to worry about baby-sitting because they will not need to leave their homes to get what they need.
- It protects their privacy. Plus, they usually receive 3 or 4 heavy bags of donations, and don’t need to worry how they will get them home. The case manager picks them up and delivers it directly to them.
I asked about donations in emergencies. When a mom calls 211, she gets a list of places to call for help and emergency programs. MINO serves up to three times (whether within one week or over a year) until mom is connected with others for services for extended care.
Like every organization across America, the pandemic and inflation are taking its toll. MINO is in crisis. Undaunted, they closed only for one month to restructure their distribution process utilizing a “no contact” phase during which time they repacked distributions that would go to families.
But now, what the cost for MINO to fill its shelves (once $300-$400) is now $1,000, and those shelves a looking bare. The fact is, unless MINO can raise $16,000 to go for rent, salaries, and products to fill its shelves, it faces a dim future.
If you wish to support MINO in any way, be it donations of items, money, your talents, or need help yourself, you can reach MINO at MINO@gmail.com or call (585) 348-8596. As a member of PROJECT URGE (a group of helping agencies united to enhance their impact), you will find information on MINO at https://projecturge.org/mino-1. MINO itself is located in the Youth for Christ building at 1 Favor Street in Rochester, New York 14608.
In the end, I guess it boils down to people touching people with love, not judgement. And that hasn’t changed since Jesus said the same thing 2000 years ago.