Lima Moms Network helps moms stay connected

December 2, 2007

About five years ago, Kristi Lucchese needed some bed rails to keep her young son tucked safely into bed as he slept. Rather than hop in the car and make yet another trip to yet another store, she decided to send an email to her friends. Lucchese, of Lima, figured someone might just have some rails that their children had outgrown. She’d snag an item that likely wouldn’t need to be used for very long, a friend would be rid of something that likely was just taking up space, and both would benefit.“I’m always trying to get things out of my house ... ,” she said, laughing and calling herself cheap.That one email was all it took before she found what she was looking for. And thus was born an idea.Lucchese, whose children are 8, 6 and 2, organized her group of friends into an email network, a network she named the Lima Moms Network. Women (or their husbands) could exchange parenting advice, tips on family-friendly events to do in the area, goods to sell — or just chat and stay connected with each other.“I wanted moms to be able to have a place, if you need a plumber, who’s a respectable plumber?” she said. If you’re considering a new pet, “I don’t care what the pet guys say, I want to know what the other moms say. What’s the real scoop on getting a bunny? ... If people know of a great sale, the reading time at the library, things like that.”Lucchese maintained control over the list, explaining she wanted to know a little bit about each of the women to keep it from becoming too impersonal. She’s not against promotion of home-based businesses — her own Princess Designs Online jewelry business is mentioned — but she prefers the focus to be on advice. “I don’t want to get people who sign up as a way to advertise their things and that’s it,” she said.And while it’s not just Lima women anymore, the information is most pertinent to Lima and the nearby area.“I just slowly started adding people to it,” she said. “Anybody who wanted to be on it could, they just sent their email. ... I’m not going to turn anybody down.”Before long, Lucchese was spending a lot of time and trouble online, between computer snafus that forced her to send the list email in batches to those on the receiving end needing special treatment so the list would not be tagged as spam. She now uses Google Groups to organize the list, which has grown incredibly.“We started with about 50 (women) and now we’ve got about 325,” Lucchese said. “I literally add people almost every day.”The success of the list is great on one hand and a bit sad on the other, Lucchese said. She misses the intimacy of knowing everyone personally and tries to steer the tone away from too much gossip or straight commerce. Her friends aren’t shy about letting her know if it’s going too far in one direction or another.“It’s gotten a little big funny in a way to selling things,” Lucchese said. “It was not my initial hope, but people do what they want with it. On the whole, I think it’s better for everybody how it is now.”One mom who was there from the beginning is Kelly O’Connor, of Shawnee Township.“I think Kristi did a tremendous service to the community,” O’Connor said.The connections that are formed between mothers are key, she said.“I think we’re definitely on the computer more than we are on the phone,” said O’Connor, whose children are 12 and 8. “My children are older, but if you have small children at home it still makes you feel like you’re in the loop ... even though you may not have left the house in a week.”The list fills very practical needs as well. O’Connor wanted to sell an elliptical workout machine, and it was snagged quickly.“Within an hour, it sold,” she said. “The fact that the item went in an hour is crazy. You never know who’s looking for it.”O’Connor and her husband are involved in youth soccer, and this year she used the list to get registration forms out. More kids than ever signed up, and she gives the credit to the Lima Moms Network.O’Connor was also quick to point out that moms often rally around someone in need, like people who have house fires or are in need of donated goods. A friend experienced a fire not long ago, and the response was amazing.“Within a minute of it being known about, there was a huge chain of dinners prepared and clothes and everything,” O’Connor said. “It’s not just about selling.”Another mom who uses the Lima Moms Network often is Jenny Koenig, of Shawnee Township.“I tell you, I have four little ones and I tell you, sometimes the stress alone ...” said Koenig, whose children are 8, 5-year-old twins, and 3. “This way I can just get on there and ask somebody.”She appreciates the fact that there are more than 300 women out there — and their husbands — who will pitch in advice and recommendations. And she can do the same for moms new to the community or struggling with something.Open houses help moms put faces to names, and the moms are quick to help each other out with everything from serious family issues to hairdresser recommendations. Koenig has a home-based business called Stuffin’ With Love, a critter-building venture, that she also promotes.“I have sold, oh my gosh, I cannot tell you how much I’ve sold,” said Koenig, who’s quick to admit she’s purchased plenty too. “I’ve sold a really nice van. I sold a sauna out of my basement.”Getting ready for Christmas this year, she realized she had plenty of Christmas lights that she wasn’t going to use. So she took photos and put the lights on the Lima Moms Network.Her family sometimes has Bengals or Reds tickets they won’t be able to use because of prior commitments, so those go on the network too.“That’s a lot of money. I’d hate for that to go to waste,” Koenig said.But more than the marketplace aspect of the list, the community connections are so important to Koenig.“People are just so friendly and nice, and you’ve never even met them,” Koenig said. “It’s just nice to help somebody else out.”