Skip to content

'Blown away': Orillia moms harness social media power for good

The Mom Collective was formed by three local moms who are tapping in to social media to help local moms in crisis; 'It's a dream team,' says co-founder
The Mom Collective, a new social media based initiative helping others in crisis, was started by, from left, Amy Scully, Ashley Szakal and Julie Gillanders, of Orillia.

The Mom Collective (TMC) is a new volunteer organization in Orillia helping local mothers in crisis.

Three local mothers/career women — Ashley Szakal, Amy Scully and Julie Gillanders — founded TMC in January. Szakal and Scully both have two sons, ages four and two, and Gillanders has a five-year-old daughter.

TMC is powered by social media. Their Instagram account @themom_collective already boasts 700 followers and 129 registered volunteers. 

So far, they have helped seven families and are working with eight more, offering various free services.

It started when one of Szakal's girlfriends fled an abusive husband, taking her three children, including a newborn, to a women's shelter.

After a couple of months there, she needed a home and everything in it. Szakal shared her friend's details with Scully and Gillanders.

"Amy and Julie ran with it," said Szakal. Gillanders found the family an unfurnished house and they posted the family's needs online.

"We completely furnished the house in 72 hours," said Szakal. "We had an incredible response from the community. We were blown away."

Donations included everything from bunk beds and a crib, pots and pans, food and gift certificates, to art work, curtains and things for the kids. A friend of a friend donated a brand new queen bed and mattress set. 

"We thought, we need to make this official. This can't be the only person this happens to," said Szakal.

TMC was formed, they created an Instagram page and it blew up. 

"It was amazing to see that we would post one request and (snap). The speed of support is mind blowing. People are willing to help. They just don't know where to go and we facilitate that," Scully said.

When a local family's house burnt down earlier this year, they lost everything, TMC reached out to the mother and asked her what the family needed. The family was in a hotel and only had a microwave. The mother expressed the need for home-cooked food.

Scully organized a spreadsheet for volunteers to make and deliver home-cooked meals to the hotel. 

"Over 30 people signed up within a week. We got two-and-a-half weeks of home-cooked meals delivered to the family."

Since then, the family found a furnished rental home, but the mother expressed a need for food.

"We did a fill-the-pantry initiative and within four days we overfilled her pantry," Szakal said. 

"She was so thankful. She's completely blown away that we are complete strangers. Her husband and the kids love it," Szakal said. 

Szakal, Scully and Gillanders met back in 2020 when their children started daycare together. When COVID hit, the school shut down. They were all worried and created a mom group chat on Facebook.

"COVID was extremely difficult and we leaned on each other for support," said Szakal. "We always talked about how every mom should have this kind of support." 

Gillanders has been working in social services for 20 years. Scully works in a hospitality organizing conferences and events. Szakal is a web designer with business experience. They bring their different skills together with TMC. Szakal is good at networking, Gillanders is good at resourcing and triage and Scully is good with the overall structure and website.

"So it's a dream team," said Scully. 

"Moms want to help other moms," said Gillanders.

The Mom Collective not only helps mothers in crisis, they develop a sense of community through the projects, they raise money for local charities, they help children learn about giving and they promote other community resources, she explained.

On April 27, The Mom Collective is hosting a Neon Yoga Fundraiser (from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at 2742 Ramara Township Rd. 46, building 3) raising funds for Charlee's Run, a charity supporting families who have lost a child prenatally or in infancy. Funds will be donated to the Soldiers' Memorial Hospital Foundation for the neonatal and pediatric department. Register here.

TMC just started a children's giving program, The Kid Collective. People are asked to involve their children in philanthropic activities and post it on their social media with the #TheKidCollective hashtag.

"We are bringing them along with us, showing them the importance of giving back to the community. We are trying to make them active members of the community," said Szakal.

What TMC needs next is to register as an official charity. They also need more volunteers and a space to store donations. 

For more information, go to the TMC website, where you can nominate a mom in need or register as a volunteer.


Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.

Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
Read more