BROOKSVILLE — When Amber Sollars became a mom two years ago, she struggled with postpartum depression and the feeling of losing her own identity. Having formerly worked as a professional photographer and in various customer service positions, she found it challenging being a stay-at-home mom.
"My husband, Cameron, works in environmental construction," Sollars said. "At the beginning, he was only home on Sundays, so I felt like a single mom with my daughter 24-7 and no one to help."
Sollars would attend church on Sundays and ask people to hold her daughter, Evelyn.
"I just needed that little bit of time away from Evy to breathe," she said.
After moving back to Florida from West Virginia, Sollars joined Grace World Outreach Church and voiced to several people her desire for a Christian moms group.
"I've had a drive to help other moms who are in my position or who are coming into my position overcome hurdles that they can have mentally and physically," Sollars said. "I'd been in a lot of moms groups, but I just wanted one that was more Christ-centered and had the same values as I had."
Recently, Sollars' prayers were answered.
"One day out of the blue, Pastor (David) Garcia, our head pastor, came to me and said he wanted me to start a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group."
Sollars had never heard of MOPS.
"After I got to know MOPS and spoke to a director, I fell in love with it and what they're about and how they do things," Sollars said.
Beginning June 13, Sollars, along with Carissia Ratcliffe, will lead MOPS at her church, under the oversight of children's ministries pastor Jesse Wilson.
The 60- to 90-minute program is open to mothers who are pregnant through their child's pre-K years. It will be time spent away from children, who will be safely cared for and provided with activities in another room.
Moms will be served a brunch and encouraged to share conversation with other mothers. Sometimes there will be guest speakers and special activities.
"We may bring in someone to do makeovers or maybe make a homemade body scrub — just some girl time," Sollars said.
There is no cost to the mothers, although they will have the option to join MOPS International for a $25 fee in order to receive a book and other helpful literature.
According to its website, MOPS International was founded in 1973 by eight women in Wheat Ridge, Colo., with the purpose of helping women feel that mothering matters.
In 1981, the group incorporated and added a board of directors. It began publishing helpful information for mothers of preschoolers and expanding beyond the borders of Colorado, currently boasting more than 4,000 groups worldwide.
Sollars is excited to start a MOPS group in Brooksville.
"No one knows what they're doing as a mom. It's all trial and error," she said. "We're offering a young mother the chance to connect with other moms, kid free, where she can feel safe to talk about what she's going through."
MOPS International's vision is to encourage and equip moms of young children to "realize their potential as mothers, women and leaders, in relationship with Jesus, and in partnership with the local church."
That is Sollars' vision as well.
"I want to help other mothers get through the difficult times that I had," she said. "I want them to know how to get through that with God, not on their own. You really can't do it on your own. I pray it reaches the mommies who need it most."