Local Women Making Holidays Better For Families

OCEAN CITY – When you are down and you need some love, you turn to your mom. For four local families, this Christmas will be a bit brighter thanks to a group of local moms, known by some as the “hot mom group of Ocean City.”

For the fourth straight year, the group of almost 100 local women will provide needy local families with Christmas gifts, in hopes that every family can enjoy the holiday season and ensure that there are at least some presents under their trees.

What started as a handful of women just getting out of the house once a month, has turned not only into a sort of exclusive social sorority but also a helpful and selfless charity group.

When Bronwyn Leonard and Michele Ridout started having “girls nights” six years ago, neither one could have imagined it would have turned into a sort of social movement for Ocean City women that now does charity events for the American Cancer Society, the Armed Forces, families in need and raises awareness for Breast Cancer.

“This is way beyond what I ever thought this could be,” said Leonard, “I never thought that we could do this much to help people. I get so emotional every year on this week by the generosity of people.”

The group meets annually at Carrie Anderson’s Bishopville home for the gift exchange for the families and a wrapping party of sorts. Last Thursday’s gathering saw a turnout of about 40-50 women despite dreadful weather.

“Not everyone makes it out to the monthly girls nights, but everyone comes out for the gift wrapping night because they all want to help these families and realize how important it is to be able to help out in our little way,” said Anderson.

According to Leonard, the group has doubled the number of families that they are giving to this year from two to four.

“We are giving gift cards and cash for the two families that we helped last year, and for the two new families, we are having a clothing drive and each taking an item or two from their Christmas lists and taking care of that,” said Leonard.

In addition to the charitable donations and activities that the group participates in each year, the “hot mom group,” as coined by Leonard’s husband, Dennis, after their first get together years ago, gets together monthly for a night out on the town. Leonard organizes the whole thing via the Internet and has compiled a database of local women that extends far from the original group of housewives that started the group.

“We have the most eclectic group of women in town, which is probably close to 100 now. From stay at home moms, to divorcees, to career women, to women that just want to meet new women, and there isn’t a single pretentious one in the group. We truly have the nicest and sweetest bunch of girls that you can find in Ocean City,” she said.

The women, as probably expected, make an immediate statement when they enter a local establishment, often traveling “60 deep”, which can provide a definite shot in the arm to a local restaurant’s evening when they have their monthly “girls nights.”

As a result, South Moon Under has held a bi-annual “girls night sale” and many local businesses are contacting Leonard and vying for the next hosting privileges for girls night.

Yet, Leonard said that the popularity of the group might be for simplistic social needs, rather than socialite-like ambitions.

“I’ve spoken to so many women that tell me how hard it is for them to make friends with women in this town, as it is a very tight knit and often closed off community, said Leonard. “This group not only gives them a place to get together and talk about the things going on in their lives, but now it gives us an opportunity to really help others. Plus, we always have a good time.”

Anderson said that the group’s annual gift giving event gives many of the women who are now stay-at-home mothers a similar sense of accomplishment that used to come from their careers.

“We are all different in age and background, but we all share a bond of having kids,” said Anderson. “This has become an extended family and we realize how important it is to help out other families who need it.”

For Leonard, the annual gift-wrapping party is a way to teach her own children about charity and giving to those in need.

“My kids help me pick out the gifts and know that Santa can’t give all the gifts to people, said Leonard, “Families have to help too, and they are learning that families should help other families when they can.”