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Nonprofit Organization Offers Support For Local Moms

Writer / Jamie Hergott
Photography Provided 

Hendricks County mom Carla Sands has a college degree in aerospace engineering, a pilot’s license and a love for all things aviation. However, her high-flying career never could have prepared her for the trials, joys and pains of motherhood and parenting her three adventurous boys. She is now grounded in her mission to provide support and encouragement to local moms through her organization, which is called Shine, mama.

“The vision is that we have a community of women, not just a friend group, not just a small group, but this Hendricks County community of moms where we become better versions of ourselves together,” Sands says.

The organization is a Hendricks County nonprofit whose goal, according to the official website, is to encourage moms to shine the light of Jesus Christ by “sparking growth, igniting purpose, and kindling community.” This is done through two main programs – growth groups and prayer groups.

Groups of women gather to pray in the local community, and in doing so they share authentic pieces of themselves, being vulnerable about their struggles, histories, pains and sufferings.

Growth groups are an extension of Purposeful Living groups, which Sands became involved in a couple years ago. Purposeful Living is an Indianapolis nonprofit that aims to help women find support and purpose in their marriages, careers, motherhood journeys and lives. Sands stumbled upon the group at a very low point in her life.

Shine Mama Sands grew up in North Carolina, which reveals itself in her charming accent. Her nuclear family consists of loving parents and two sisters, so she has always had female support in her life. In college she met her husband, and followed him to Georgia where she began to work full time in the aviation industry. They began their family, and Sands found she enjoyed being productive outside of the home.

When her second son turned 1 year old, she found herself struggling to balance full-time work with parenting.

“I couldn’t love my kids as well as I really wanted to,” Sands says. “It was such a big struggle.”

She began to work from home, which helped alleviate some pressure and stress. However, in 2014 she suffered what she calls the most devastating loss of her entire life. Sands experienced a miscarriage during her third pregnancy. She discovered this at 12 weeks along.

“It was a tremendous loss,” Sands says. “When you get pregnant, you think constantly about what will happen, what their name will be, what the baby will be like. The miscarriage broke me down. I struggled to feel whole again after that.”

A few months after her loss, Sands’ family moved to Indiana for her husband’s job. In addition to her pain, she began to experience isolation in a way she never had before.

“We had two kids, I just suffered a miscarriage, we came to a state far away from family, I had no friends and I was working from home,” Sands says. “I was alone.”

Sands became pregnant again. She soon realized that what should have been an extremely joyous occasion was painted with fear and anxiety due to her recent miscarriage. She sank into a depression.

“I was angry and I was scared,” Sands says. “I was stuck at home with no friends, no support system, and was convincing myself I was miscarrying. It was so hard to just be a person at that time, much less a good mom or a good wife.”

Thankfully her pregnancy resulted in a healthy baby boy who completed their family beautifully, but Sands was still struggling to find purpose in her day-to-day work and parenting. In addition to not feeling happy, she felt guilty about not finding fulfillment as a mom. She assumed since she grew up wanting to be a mother, while also being a very nurturing person naturally, that she would feel full of purpose as a mother. However, as many moms find out themselves, parenting was much harder than she anticipated.

Shine Mama In 2018 Sands got connected with Purposeful Living, whose aim is to bring women out of isolation and into a Christlike community. Sands joined a group and found a community of women who were solely there to build her up and affirm her.

“I really started blossoming,” Sands says. “I saw what a supportive, safe, healthy, authentic community could do.”

Around the same time, Sands took a work trip by herself to San Diego, California. She traveled for work occasionally, but being able to escape to California’s sunny climate during a cold, gray Indiana January hit her differently.

“Every mom deserves a trip to some place sunny, to do something they want for a day and escape the madness for a day or two,” Sands says.

While she couldn’t provide exactly that for other mamas, she dreamed of a place or group where she could make a mission out of giving moms a break, and build an intimate community of support and encouragement for them.

“That really sparked Shine, mama,” Sands says. “God crafted it from there. It came from moms getting away from life for a little while to really build a community of local moms.”

Women have the option to choose between a growth group, which operates in semesters, or a prayer group, which is ongoing. Growth groups follow curriculums, the current topic being “My Identity.” The group then digs into who God says they are, referencing scriptures and stories that support how loved, chosen and accepted women are by God.

“We talk about how we construe that as women, or even how the world construes it,” Sands says. “We try to combat the lies the world tells women with who God says we are.”

Growth group meetings take place in homes every other week. Women bring their children, who can safely play together close by. Prayer groups take place once per month. Eventually Sands would love to offer child care at in-person events so that more women have the option to come.

Sands also implements community outreach. She worked with Family Promise in 2020, organizing the delivery of flowers, cards and gift bags to moms for Mother’s Day. She also did outreach to Family Promise graduates when COVID hit, offering donations of gently used learning toys, board games, and arts and crafts supplies.

She has goals for the coming year, while also realizing flexibility is required due to COVID. She’s in talks with a Hendricks County gym about possibly organizing a play group, making sure Family Promise families are aware of the opportunity.

She is also working on a quarterly program called “In Her Words,” for which she invites people to speak on taboo topics such as miscarriage and infant loss. Potential future topics are grief, domestic violence or special-needs parenting.

In 2020 Sands saw success, growth and hope in her organization. There was one growth group and one prayer group, and second groups will be launching in February. A total of 40 women were impacted through outreach in 2020.

Sands launched a 2021 giving campaign in January called “Be Bold. Shine Bright,” hoping to impact 100 or more moms by raising a cash flow of $5,000 per month by August of this year. This money will be poured right back into the community of moms.

“All of our programs are free,” Sands says. “I don’t want that to be a limiting factor. We cannot heal and we cannot grow alone.”

For more information, visit shinemama.org, or email Sands at Carla.jo@shinemama.org.

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