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How Modern Widows Club Is Helping New Widows During The Pandemic

081321_NPR_Maria Fabrizio_widows
Maria Fabrizio
The Modern Widows Club helps foster friendships and connections between widows of all ages through regular meetings, community education, service and outreach.

When Cyndi Williams and Destiny Klimaszewski appeared on St. Louis on the Air in late February 2020, they described the importance of widows connecting with fellow widows — and sharing perspectives that only someone who’s lost a spouse can truly relate to.

“These kinds of stories are the moment where you look at another widow and they get it — and everybody else looks at you with horror, like, ‘I can’t imagine,’” Williams said. “And it’s true, I don’t want anybody to imagine.”

Williams and Klimaszewski are advocates for the St. Louis chapter of Modern Widows Club. The organization helps foster friendships and connections among widows of all ages through regular meetings, community education, service and outreach.

How Modern Widows Club Is Helping New Widows During The Pandemic
Hear how the COVID-19 crisis impacted widows in the St. Louis region, and how Modern Widows Club advocates continued their efforts to support one another.

Their first meeting after that interview was filled with so much emotion and hope, Williams said, with many new members who’d learned about the club through recent media coverage. Since January 2020, the club has doubled its roster of “wisters” — their word for widow sisters. (As of this month, it now has more than 360 members.)

But then the pandemic hit — and widows experiencing an already devastating loss had to do so while the region was under quarantine protocols. That presented a new set of challenges for outreach efforts.

“Destiny and I were just devastated after having all this energy and having tears in the room in March and all these women talking about how thankful they were to have connected with us,” Williams recalled.

The local chapter depended on in-person meetings prior to the pandemic. They switched to Zoom meetings but still found ways to connect beyond virtual talks.

“We put together bags with little necklaces jBloom had had donated to us that said ‘wister’ on it,” Williams said. “We delivered that with some personal care items. Destiny and I drove over 500 miles over a two-day period to deliver these little bags because we couldn't connect in person. We thought at least having that necklace and having that love from us being delivered … would help hold them together for the meantime until we could get back together.”

Carolyn Moor founded the Modern Widows Club 10 years ago. She started the club a decade after becoming a widow on Valentine’s Day in 2000, in an era before social media connected strangers with each other.

Evie Hemphill
St. Louis Public Radio
Carolyn Moor (at left) is the founder of Modern Widows Club. Cyndi Williams (at right) helped start a local chapter for MWC.

“What I longed for really was a community of mentors, someone farther along than myself. I didn't find it,” Moor recalled. Instead, she found herself mentoring two widows in Orlando, Florida.

“I honestly just opened up my home on the third Thursday of each month and said, ‘If anyone knows any widows, they can send them to my house.’ And thousands of widows over the last few years showed up and it just never ended,” she recalled

But it wasn’t until she started volunteering at a grief center, where she received grief counseling, that the trajectory for Moor’s impact in the widow community changed. A production team from TLC came across her story and featured her on the series, “Shalom in the Home.” A producer for Oprah Winfrey saw Moor on the show and asked her to be a part of the episode of “Troubled Families.”

She hesitated at first: “I thought, ‘I'm not a troubled family.’”

“They said: ‘No, we want you to come on because you're literally like a hero next door. You're a woman who is raising children, making great decisions, and we need you to come on the show, to show what's possible for solo parents. And we want you to represent widows who are becoming empowered.’”

Winfrey gave Moor the dose of inspiration she needed. She told Moor, “‘I want you to do something with your story, find the hero within and do something.”

“And at the time, I honestly was like, ‘I don't think you understand. It’s hard to shower every day. It's hard to do the life of a solo parent and work. And she was really the one that said, ‘Just consider it,’” Moor recalled.

Thanks to her television appearances, Moor said she was constantly recognized as “that woman who lost her husband on Valentine's Day.” Two years ago, she left her job as an interior designer to focus solely on Modern Widows Club.

“I [didn't] want to live my story constantly. But that's in fact what happened. … More women kept finding me, so it was this realization that this is where I'm supposed to be,” she said.

Moor visited St. Louis last week as part of her 10-stop tour, called “Moor Luv,” to commemorate the 10 years since she launched the organization and visit other “wisters” across the country — including the St. Louis chapter. A native of Arkansas, Moor lived in St. Louis for a time and actually met her husband because of her studies at St. Louis Community College-Meramec.

Having Williams and Klimaszewski launch the St. Louis chapter was a dream come true, she said.

“I kept saying, ‘We need a community in St. Louis, I need to be coming here,’” Moor said. She also cited another reason the chapter is special to her: “I'm a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan!”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.

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