With the holiday season fast approaching, I’m excited to introduce Marblehead mom and co-founder of The Mrs. Claus Project, Jessica Kaloutas. Jessica started this charitable project with her daughter and cousin as a way to brighten the holiday season for local young moms in need of winter essentials.
Where are you from originally and what town do you live in now?
I’m originally from Peabody and live in Marblehead now.
How many children do you have and what are their age(s)?
I have one daughter, Alexis, she’s 23.
What’s your favorite family activity on the North Shore?
So many to choose from, especially around the different seasons but recently one of my favorites is a trip to the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield. We’ll walk the trails and bring our bird seed to feed the birds.
Where’s your favorite place to eat and/or shop on the North Shore?
Again, we are blessed here in the North Shore with many great restaurants. My daughter and I love sushi, so if we are having a mom/daughter date, we love Maki Sushi in Peabody. If it’s the three us for dinner, we’ll enjoy a neighborhood meal at Cafe Italia in Marblehead.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
When I was 24, my daughter-like cousin, Cassie, moved in and I helped raise her from the ages of 15 to 18. So at 24, I was a mom of a 7 and 15 year old. While some times were challenging, we created many great memories together and had so much fun!
You and your daughter are the founders of The Mrs. Claus Project. Tell us a little bit about the Project and how you came up with the idea?
We are the founders along with my daughter-like cousin, Cassie (who is also the Chief Social Media Elf for The Mrs. Claus Project). We started 8 years ago, after I chose a tag off of a Christmas giving tree for a local woman. My daughter and I shopped together for the woman. It was a wonderful experience and piqued my curiosity around helping a young mother.
I was 16 when I became pregnant with my daughter and I wanted to pay it forward to show support to another mother who may be in a similar place as I had once been. Through some research, I found the women who helped me through high school and beyond in a program that was provided to me at Peabody High School. That program no longer exists but Susan, my High School Home Visitor, was in a similar State program, Healthy Families, as the Program Director. Susan was excited to hear from me and grateful for my offer to surprise a young mother in need, with Christmas gifts just for her. She shared that there were more than 100 mothers in the Healthy Families Program at the time. I reached out to my family and friends and that first year we sponsored five mothers. That was the beginning of The Mrs. Claus Project.
The Mrs. Claus Project is aimed at brightening the holidays of North Shore area young moms with winter essentials and thoughtful gifts for the holidays, to ensure they receive a special gift just for them! We match up sponsors to young mothers (mother’s ages range from 14-24 years old) and provide the sponsors with an individualized wish list from the mom.
How many years have you been running The Mrs. Claus Project?
It’s been growing and evolving for 7 years.
In that time, how many moms have you helped?
We’ve helped around 300 moms.
How many young moms do you hope to sponsor this year?
This year we hope to sponsor 94 moms.
How do you find the young moms that you sponsor?
All of the young mothers are voluntary participants in The Healthy Families North Shore – A Children’s Trust Program. Healthy Families Massachusetts is a free and voluntary support program for young, first-time moms and dads across the state. They provide parenting support and work with them to help them achieve their goals–finishing school, finding a job.
How can volunteers get involved with The Mrs. Claus Project?
There are a few ways to get involved with the Project: You can sponsor a mom for the holidays. Or volunteer your time to help pick up and drop off collection boxes, prep for delivery day and load and unload the donation truck at Healthy Families on delivery day. You can also help by spreading the word about The Mrs. Claus Project to your own friends and family. (Share their website or like them on Facebook.)
Do you work full time in addition to running the Mrs. Claus Project?
I do. I am the owner of North Shore Myofascial Release in Peabody. I help people who are in constant pain transform their lives and avoid medication, surgeries and unnecessary injections through proper treatment and education.
What is your favorite family memory of Christmas?
Going to Ingraham Farm to cut our very first real christmas tree.