The Facebook group, Working Moms of Wilton, is a valuable source of information on topics ranging from finding childcare to job search resources to COVID testing. Sometimes it’s also great for griping about spouses, ex-spouses, kids, jobs or 2020. But more powerfully, the virtual sisterhood has become an online community that demonstrates the GOOD that women can accomplish together, for one another, for people in need and for the wider society.
It’s why we’ve selected the Working Moms of Wilton group, with almost 1,300 members, and its founder and administrator, Vivian Lee-Shiue, as the first recipient of GOOD Morning Wilton‘s GOODY Award.
We spoke with Lee-Shiue back in December after the group had pooled together an overwhelming effort to help several individuals in town who were facing significant financial and health challenges. In her words, she shares why this group is so amazing.
From Resource to Connection to Generosity
“When this group was started originally, I was really jaded in terms of being a working mom. My kids were young, in daycare at the time. And I literally thought there was nobody in town that worked, just me and a small group of women. My impression was, I’m here and all these other women are sitting there at the country club, they’re all affluent, that stereotype. [After launching the Facebook group], it really grew very rapidly.
“What I realized is that there are a lot of people who, their mentality is different than what you think it would be. They are grounded, they want to be part of a community. They really are not looking to one-up each other. They want to be professional. And they genuinely want to help other people. That’s what the most surprising thing in all of this for me–when you come in with that sort of jaded view and you realize that they’re all very open and nobody’s really judging.
“It really started with a group of women that wanted to get together and share, a little social group to share the common interest of being the, at the time, the only working moms in Wilton, but it ended up being much bigger than that. It evolved into great research. People would offer resources up for unemployment, connections, let me help you with your resume, any of those types of things. They’re part of a common group, and they want to help somebody that’s just like them in certain ways. Everybody’s very sincere and genuine and really understands and wants to help.
“What I also realized as this group started growing, they want to help their fellow neighbors do well and to survive, and they really want to be part of a small community. We would do little things. It started with those Wilton Social Services Thanksgiving baskets. The first year I did that, several years ago, I really thought we would get, like, one basket, but it ended up being many, and it continued to spiral. Social Services reached out and said ‘Can you adopt a kid for the holidays?’ Then it [mushroomed], we covered something like 50 kids because people really want to feel like they’re doing something meaningful and productive.”
Tapping into Wilton’s GOOD
Lee-Shiue grew up in Wilton. We asked if she felt that power to do GOOD has always been in Wilton, or if this is something different.
“There was a lot of charitable giving, but, because I was a kid at the time, I didn’t see a lot of that other than what we did through school and through church and organized groups, so I don’t know how much it has really changed versus how much of it was my perception of how it’s changed. I think what’s changed is the mentality and the change in that whole stereotype of the “Fairfield County Stepford wife” type thing.
“And I think technology helps–GoFund Me and the word gets around faster. There’s a difference in the times and of what resources and tools are available.
Helping Working Moms of Wilton Members
Just this past holiday season, the Working Moms of Wilton stepped up to help some of its own members in need.
Lee-Shiue put out the call within the Facebook group, asking if any of the members needed some extra assistance but had been afraid to ask for help. She offered to organize an effort to help meet those needs and protect the anonymity of anyone who stepped forward to ask for help. She was able to collect the specific things the families had asked for just by posting the request in the group. Within hours members had committed to fulfilling those requests, purchasing the items, collecting food gift cards, donating money, and more.
“I ended up with four families with varying levels of need right. And all their circumstances were really different. One family had some young kids and that was for toys and stuff like that. One mother just wanted one item. Two families were referred by someone who said, ‘Can I put them in contact with you? I’m sure they would be okay if it’s really confidential and under wraps. They’re very humble.’
“One woman had lost her job and had some medical issues. And then it just kind of spiraled from there. I gave her a few things that I collected–Stop and Shop gift cards and Amazon gift cards. We ended up talking.
“She had basically depleted all of her savings with her medical expenses. You know, where they say, make sure you have several months of your operating expenses in savings? She had all that. She was laid off. The medical expenses were ridiculous. Whatever cash she can get, it’s whatever is next, whatever’s next. So electricity, food, whatever. She didn’t have heat.
“I was like, listen, we gotta get you some heat at the very least. So I posted in the group, ‘Let’s just make enough to fill at least two months worth of oil in her tank.’
Immediately, group members volunteered in an overwhelmingly generous way.
“It took off because, part of it is the holiday season, but nobody wants to see anybody in that situation and people realize that this can happen to anybody. The eye-opening thing was she did everything right. But that one little drawback of her medical expenses will completely just turn it on its head.
“It started with just getting to two tankfuls of heating oil, but it just kind of spread. The Rotary Club of Wilton gave $500 and I ended up giving her over $8,800 in cash and then somebody donated groceries and the Painted Cookie donated some cookies. And that was in addition to the gift cards that we gave them the day before. She was completely just overwhelmed, and very grateful.
“I’m a part of a lot of different working moms groups or moms groups in Fairfield County and elsewhere. I think people see Wilton’s Working Moms community as a really tight-knit family, because we are very, very adamant about no judgment–things get deleted the minute that there’s any level of judgment. People feel comfortable being vulnerable in the group. As a result, there’s a level of trust and comradery that is not always in some of the other larger groups.
“So when they see that there is a need in one of their own, they are really, really willing to step up and help support them because, even if they don’t know them personally, it’s almost as if it’s a really good friend that’s suffering and you would always want to help your good friends. There is a tight-knit sense that they really want to be there to help anybody in that circle. I see it in the [wider Wilton] community too, but I think more so in this group, similar to when something happens to any of the members of the sports teams, that whole team rallies, and they try to support those families. It’s a little bit of a closer, tighter group.
“I think in general, people just want to help. They really just want to help.
“Living in this town, where there is such fortune. I don’t mean that necessarily in the money sort of way, but people here have good fortune. And when you lose that, there’s this double feeling of getting sucked down, but also like you’ve lost everything and you don’t know what to do, and it’s immobilizing, you feel lost. And on the other side of it, when people do find out, there’s marshaling and mobilizing that happens. In this group, you probably couldn’t even finish the sentence before somebody would say, ‘Let me help. What can I do?'”
Do you know someone deserving to be recognized for the GOOD they do in Wilton? Find out more about how to nominate someone for a GOODY.