The Power of ONE: Susan Rose and the Lauren Rose Albert Foundation
Mar 01, 2015 10:01PM
By Julianne Hale
Susan Rose receiving the Jefferson Award
For 25 years, Susan Rose worked in various positions in government and politics in the state of New Jersey until February 18, 1999, the day her world came to a screeching halt. Her oldest daughter, Lauren Rose Albert, was traveling in Morocco when she was killed in an auto accident. Susan was engulfed in grief, unable to function at work or at home.
After existing in a grief-induced limbo for more than a year, Rose was approached by friends who suggested that she start a scholarship fund with some money she had left from her political campaigns. She agreed to it but Rose didn’t have any direction so she decided to write and explore ideas about how to best honor Lauren’s memory. Not long after Susan started this process, the inspiration for the Lauren Rose Albert Foundation was born. “I spent years in government watching women fall through the cracks,” explains Rose. “Lauren was a mother. Her children were the most important thing in her life and I decided that the best way to honor her memory was to help mothers in need.”
One of Rose’s friends learned about the foundation and wrote an article about Lauren’s legacy and the foundation’s mission to help women for the Courier Post. The article hit a nerve and Susan found help in an unlikely place. Five years prior to the article being published, Rose had run for Camden County Clerk and lost to a candidate named Jim Beach. Beach read the article, remembered his former opponent and felt compelled to reach out to Rose.
“Jim and I hadn’t really spoken since we were political opponents and, at the time, I was still in such deep grief that I was just putting one foot in front of the other. We agreed to meet and that meeting sparked a friendship that lasts to this day,” states Rose.
Beach offered Rose all of his resources to help get her foundation off of the ground. He convened a group of community leaders that met every month for a year to help develop, mold and build the Lauren Rose Albert Foundation “In retrospect, I understand that what Jim was doing at those meetings was helping to build me up so that I could rebuild my career,” notes Rose.
Jim Beach and Susan
The monthly discussions allowed the group to pinpoint women’s needs in the community and figure out how to fill them. One attendee was the head of a large social service agency and she discussed a community need that she saw on a daily basis in her work with working poor mothers. She noted that they take care of their own needs last and rarely have the time or the money to buy health and beauty products for themselves. The group discussed this and decided to hold a collection drive for personal care items to put in baskets to distribute on Mother’s Day. “In May of 2001, we accumulated enough pretty and practical pampering health and beauty items to assemble 260 baskets. We delivered them to three day care centers and two women’s shelters in Camden,” says Rose.
The women were touched by the baskets and filled with gratitude. Thus, Mothers Matter was born. “This little gift basket idea really took hold,” explains Rose. “We would start in March and for six weeks out of every year, we used borrowed space and we would bring everything together into this one location and assemble the gift baskets. Then we would deliver them to more and more places on Mother’s Day.” The program grew to over 2,000 gift basketsand eventually became too large to sustain in a temporary facility. The Lauren Rose Albert Foundation needed a space to call home.
“Our timing couldn’t have been better because, around the same time we started looking for our own space, Washington Township was vacating the building where their recreation program was held,” asserts Rose. “We put in a bid and won and, in 2011, we moved into our own 3,000-square-foot facility and expanded the operation to year round.”
At press time, the foundation has distributed close to 30,000 gift baskets. They’ve expanded their operation to partner with hospitals, cancer centers, Ronald McDonald House, the New Jersey National Guard and more. Moving beyond gift baskets, the foundation offered a scholarship program to help single, head-of-household mothers pay for their textbooks while in college and created an emergency grant fund for women who find themselves in precarious financial situations.
The Lauren Rose Albert Foundation has one primary fundraiser each year, a 5K run in October that provides the funds needed to keep it going each year. One of the most remarkable things about the foundation is that it is run completely by volunteers. There are no paid staff members. Rose says, “We’ve come so far because everything we do is done with love and caring by volunteers. I see us expanding our gift bag program to add more and more partners for our Mothers Matter year-round gift bag program. It is so special and it has such an impact on the lives of the women who receive these beautiful gifts.”
In addition to making a true and lasting impact on the women of the community, the Lauren Rose Albert Foundation helped Susan Rose find her way back into the light. “With help from Jim Beach, my family and many others, the foundation has taken me from a rocking chair where I sat and grieved and gotten me up and out. It has given me peace and a sense of accomplishment.”
For more information, visit MothersMatter.org.