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MOMS find friends in Penn

| Saturday, May 12, 2012, 5:38 p.m.

Heather Sullivan and her husband knew no one in Penn Township when they moved there last year.

But that changed after she joined the Penn-Trafford Area MOMS Club in September.

Sullivan made friends -- and got advice and encouragement about child rearing from other mothers.

"It's the perfect place to meet moms and kids in the area," she said. "It helps you to get to know new people, a new area. It's a great way to make friends."

The Sullivans aren't alone. They are part of the influx of new residents moving into the township, among the fastest growing municipalities in western Pennsylvania.

Between 1990 and 2000, the township's population grew by more than 23 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Almost 19,600 people lived in the township in 2000, based on that year's census.

The growth is reflected in the Penn-Trafford School District, which serves Penn Township, Manor Annex and Trafford and Penn boroughs. In 1988-89, the district's enrollment was 3,552. At the start of the current school year, 4,848 students were enrolled.

During the 1990s, school district administrators were tracking 34 different housing projects where construction was occurring. Overall, homes sprang up on about 2,000 lots in 42 housing developments within the district during the 1990s.

Sullivan and her husband moved to Penn Township in July when he was reassigned to the Pittsburgh area by his employer, Peak Technology Services. They moved to the township after a three-year stint in Michigan.

"It was convenient to his work," Sullivan said. "We were looking for a place to build a house and found a lot we loved. And the schools <#201> were a big attraction."

MOMS -- which stands for Mothers Offering Mothers Support -- is both a national and an international group. The Penn-Trafford chapter was founded in July, said Susie Kerr, the chapter's president. The club has 14 members.

"It is to offer support, one mother offering other mothers support," Kerr said. "It was a way for the moms to connect with one another and find out that they're going through the same things."

Activities include play groups for the children, along with activities such as egg hunts, trips, luncheons and family picnics. The women also exchange ideas about child rearing.

The chapter is limited to at-home mothers or pregnant women, or to mothers whose part-time jobs or at-home businesses allow them to get together when the club meets mornings and afternoons.

Kerr said the club was a help to Sullivan and other newcomers to the township.

"She has made friends, people she can call if she needs help," Kerr said, citing a family member's death as an example of when the club helped a mom in need.

Another club member, Carla Fabac, said she and her husband were in a similar position when they moved to Penn Township. Fabac grew up near Uniontown; her husband was from Allegheny County.

"It's a way to meet people in the area," said Fabac, who is the club's treasurer. "Staying at home, not working anymore outside the home, it's hard to meet people. This group is really a nice way to meet stay-at-home moms and establish friendships."

The Penn-Trafford organization, which charges a membership fee of $20, also helps women making the transition from full-time employment outside the house to full-time jobs at home.

"It's an adjustment when you're used to going out of the home and a 40-hour work week," Kerr said.

She is the mother of two sons. Sullivan has a 20-month-old daughter. Fabac is the mother of two children, a boy and a girl.

"Everybody has at least one (child). It varies from one and up. <#201> Most everybody has one or two. But it's not limited to the number of children you have," Kerr said.

The first MOMS club was founded in 1983. The club became a national organization in 1985, and went international in 1996, Kerr said.

North Huntingdon Township and Greensburg also have chapters.

A number of other groups for mothers and children meet at churches and community centers, but they may not be part of the official MOMS Club network.

Sullivan said she especially likes one club function.

"I really enjoy Moms' Night Out. Just being able to get out and socialize with other moms once a month is great," she said.

To locate a MOMS Club chapter, or for information about the organization, check the club's Web site at www.momsclub.org or send e-mail to momsclub@aol.com .

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