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Life & Work with Tess Frear

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tess Frear.

Hi Tess, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Growing up, I have always seen my mom and dad giving back to others, so that is what ultimately inspired me to want to give.

I am an entrepreneur at heart with a social service background and I was searching for ways to give back to my community. My cousin Jamie Lackey started Helping Mamas, Inc in Atlanta.

I had the opportunity to help her at some of her events at the beginning of her journey. I was thinking one day, maybe I could open Helping Mamas Knoxville.

I reached out to her and she said ” I knew you would be the one to open it in Knoxville, I was just waiting on you.” Helping Mamas embodies all of my passions. I know how hard being a mom is and I have such an amazing support group. I also know how important child development is and I wanted to be able to support that as well.

I also loved that kids five and up can volunteer at HMK. We have to be an example for our kids and show them what life is about. We were called to give ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
In the beginning, just spreading the word about what we do was a little difficult. I had to work my day job and try to start Helping Mamas at the same time.

I luckily worked with my family and had more flexibility, but it was still hard to split my time and not give 100% to HMK. It was also hard not having the space needed to collect items since we are a supply bank. Many of our partner agencies don’t have space to store items or time to find them.

That’s why we collect items and house them, this gives them more time to spend with clients’ indirect services. Sometimes it is harder in a community if you aren’t one of the bigger nonprofits to get the support. You just have to prove that you are making an impact and that your services are needed in the community.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Helping Mamas was founded by a social worker (My cousin) who saw a gap in services.

There was no coordinated effort to collect and distribute essential baby items or period products to women and children in need. After watching moms having to use plastic grocery bags for diapers or washout and reuse disposable diapers, she knew something needed to be done.

There are no public assistance programs to provide for diapers or period products. Parents were missing work because of diaper needs, babies were experiencing severe diaper rash infections and teen girls were missing a week of school a month because of a lack of period products.

I am proud of my community and how they have shown support for the local families in need. It is really amazing to see how many of our requests for a specific item are met. People are really supportive and love that our items go to their community.

We partner with over 50 local agencies and they come to our space to shop and pick up items for families. Our model works out perfectly because these families get their basic needs met and continue to get long-term support.

What would you say has been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
You never know when you will be in someone else’s shoes so just show them love and support. You can make a difference even by helping one person.

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