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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Local Holistic Moms Learning and Growing Together

Jun 01, 2021 06:00AM ● By Diane Eaton

It all seemed to fall into her lap.

A few years ago, when Gabriela Monge and her growing family were still living in Virginia, she had reached out to the Holistic Moms Network (HMN) to inquire about openings to co-lead a local chapter. She had recently begun learning about diet and health, and once that door opened, she never looked back. “Since then, it’s been a constant forward movement of better choices for mind, body and spirit in parenting and in health—physically, mentally, emotionally. And it hasn’t stopped,” she says.

So when Monge and her family moved to Atlanta in 2019, HMN returned the favor. They asked her if she was still interested in co-leading a chapter. Atlanta didn’t have one yet.

Gabriela Monge (Photo: Ivette Gonzalez)

Meanwhile, Jennifer Letzer had joined some HMN meetings in California and loved them. “It felt so great to learn from other moms and other people who had so much knowledge about different kinds of natural practices and healthier ways of doing things,” says Letzer. “That experience of community and feeling like you have a place to talk about things you’re interested in with other parents —it just felt really special.”

It just so happens that Letzer and her family moved to Atlanta from Southern California in 2019, too, which is when she found Monge’s fledgling West Atlanta Metro HMN chapter on Facebook. When the two finally connected, it felt right. And Atlanta had its two co-leads.

They had a successful kickoff meeting in December of that year and rented their ideal venue for February 2020—an assisted living facility about halfway between them. Everything seemed to be in motion. Then, of course, the pandemic shut everything down.

Monge and Letzer had to pivot. Fast.

Jennifer Letzer (Photo: Jennifer Letzer)

“We immediately switched to virtual meetings and kept the momentum going,” says Letzer, a certified labor doula and trained lactation educator. In March, they checked in personally with all of the members to see how everyone was “really” doing. Then they set up twice-monthly Zoom “coffee chats” to be supportive and helpful during such demanding, stressful times.

They stayed focused, filling the calendar with fun, informative topics or DIY projects to engage in. For the March gathering, the group learned to make DIY Fire Cider, an immune-boosting winter tonic—with a kick—that’s made with apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, cayenne and honey and fermented for a couple of months. “It nips sore throats in the bud!” says Letzer.

Over the last year, members have presented a wide variety of topics, including the uses and benefits of turmeric, making rose tea baths, mindful parenting, vision boards, and the pros and cons of cloth diapers. They’ve also had a day of group shopping to get discounted volume pricing on spices, oils, teas and other things they needed.

But the exchange of tips, ideas and information isn’t the only draw to the group. “You’re in a community, a band of families,” says Monge, “all sorts of people who have ideas and passions, all in the realm of mindfulness, gentle parenting, recycling, caring for the earth, caring for our bodies, caring for one another.”

“It is so nurturing and feels so natural to have a community that is with me,” adds Letzer. “Holistic parenting has allowed me to have a better understanding and respect for how we’re all connected and how we can impact one another.”

Both leaders are passionate about making sure people know that there are no requirements about who can participate or join. “We don’t want people to think this is just for moms. It’s for anyone,” says Monge. “And we don’t want people to fear being judged, either. We don’t want someone to think, ‘You know, I formula-fed my baby. I don’t want to be judged.’ They won’t be.”

Topics for upcoming months include DIY kombucha, foraging family hikes, healthy lunch ideas and homeopathy for sleep and stress.

Attendance at West Atlanta Metro Holistic Moms Network meetings is free, but membership is encouraged after two or three visits. The cost of membership is $30 for the year, which helps to pay for visiting speakers. The organization is a nonprofit, and leadership is on a voluntary basis. For more information, visit their chapter page or their Facebook page
Diane Eaton is the managing editor of this magazine.

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