Photographs by Jessica Cirz
Celebrity makeup artist Lauren Vena and her team came together to help Mom’s House of Wilmington and spread the word about its mission.
Being a mom is the best job in the world. Of course, it doesn’t always feel like it. The days are long and the pay is low, unless you count baby kisses, which some might say are worth their weight in gold.
Celebrity makeup artist Lauren Vena used her extra time during the pandemic to honor and recognize moms. A mom herself, Lauren knows how hard the early days can be for new mothers. She literally penned a book on the topic, releasing My Mom…the best mom ever! in 2020.
While doing some press for the book release, she mentioned that she would like to honor real moms in her community in New Jersey and asked children, dads, friends and family to nominate a serving mother to receive a day of pampering.
“I thought I would get maybe 15 nominations,” Vena says with a laugh. She ended up receiving hundreds.
“I realized that I could do this more than once and then the idea to do it across the East Coast just kind of happened,” she says.
Vena works with a team, including photographer Jessica Cirz, hair stylist extraordinaire Danielle “Tush” Carpeneto of Gypsy Hair, stylist and boutique clothing shop owner Melanie Gibson and videographer Isaac Perez. Together they provide services for weddings and other events, but, in this case, they travel to give moms the ultimate makeover experience.
When Vena learned of Mom’s House Wilmington, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and empowering single student mothers to complete their education, she jumped at the chance to support them. It just so happened that Mom’s House was getting ready to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a fundraising event.
“I worked with them, and they selected two mother and daughter pairs who would get the full pampering treatment—from hair, makeup and dresses—and then be revealed during the event,” she says.
This is only the second time Vena and her team have done a mother and daughter makeover. It is the fourth time they have provided the makeover event in general and their first time in Delaware.
LaHoma Rodriguez, development director with Mom’s House, helped select the mother-daughter pairs to be celebrated during the fundraiser. As a support professional, Jackson has worked with many of the families coming through Mom’s House to provide resources and counselling.
Finding Mom’s House
Ahisha Bisram first learned of Mom’s House after she lost her credit card. “I was meeting up with the girl who found my card on campus. She saw I was pregnant and asked if I needed help,” says Bisram.
At the time, Bisram was balancing school and her doctor’s appointments. “I didn’t feel like I needed help,” she recalls.
After her daughter, Noa, was born, Bisram became overwhelmed trying to manage everything. “I was trying to go to college and realized it was becoming too much. I called Mom’s House that day,” she says.
Mom’s House serves as a refuge for low-income families, single mothers and students, with a specific focus on teens with babies. At the time, the organization had a daycare location in Wilmington (shuttered during the pandemic) where families could take their young children for free to enroll in the early education program. In return, student parents sign a contract to attend mandatory bi-monthly parenting/life skill workshops, and volunteer three hours weekly for cleaning. Parents and families are also provided free counselling, tutoring and mentoring.
The support families receive allows parents to stay in school. And it works.
Bisram was able to complete her medical rotations and graduate. She now works as a clinical scientist for Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Today, she and Noa, now four, are a success story.
As Danielle “Tush” Carpeneteo of Gypsy Hair, part of the makeover team, was doing Bisram’s hair and chatting about her experience, she said she teared up.
“Every town should have a Mom’s House,” she says. “This is our third makeover event, and each one is amazing. I love to help good moms feel great about themselves.”
Lauren Kubler and her daughter, Jordyn Bader, 24, also received makeovers during the event. Kubler found herself pregnant at 15. “I went to an all-girls Catholic school, so you can imagine the conversation at the dinner table,” she says.
“My family is very Catholic. They are also busy with their horse farm and couldn’t really help with the baby,” she recalls. “I was in church one Sunday and saw information in the bulletin about Mom’s House.”
After a visit, Kubler knew this is where she needed to be. Jordyn started attending that fall. They stayed with the program, Kubler graduated high school and went to Wilmington University. She later found a job at WSFS Bank, where she met her husband.
“I always wanted to be a teacher, but I didn’t think it could happen,” she says. “My husband encouraged me.”
She went back to school and got her teaching degree. She now also has her master’s degree. Jordyn is a successful businesswoman with twins. Lauren and her husband have four children together.
“Mom’s House built that for us,” Kubler says. “They encouraged me, and I encouraged my daughter. It really gave us a basis for a great life.”
Trust the Process
During the pandemic, Mom’s House was in the process of selling its Wilmington location to move to Newark. However, while that location sold, the new location fell through. The organization has been without a daycare location but has continued to provide support to students, teen mothers and their families through virtual services and resources.
“We do feel like we are starting from square one, but we are optimistic because we have continued to support the people in our programs rough a really rough time,” says Mary Kay Wilson, executive director.
The organization was able to launch DEW Counseling & Resource Center at the start of the pandemic while collaborating with University of Delaware psychologists to provide group sessions.
“These sessions helped our families by providing skills to cope with increased anxiety and stressors during the pandemic. This was a time to challenge ourselves and provide support while instilling hope,” says LaHoma Rodriguez, development director.
Mom’s House partners with University of Delaware’s Health For All Program to provide medical services and access to physicals and prescriptions.
“This is not just about Mom’s House, but about being part of something bigger, and doing our part to close the gaps and inequities that so many of our families face,” Rodriguez says.
This year, Mom’s House is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
“Our motto is when you strengthen a parent, you strengthen a child. We hope to continue in this mission by expanding counseling and medical services to a larger population,” says Rodriguez.
To learn more and support Mom’s House, follow the group on Facebook and Instagram.
Related: A Wilmington Photographer Shares Her Parenting Experience