Maiye Waller spent years recovering from her newborn son’s death in 2017 due to childbirth complications; her mission to turn tragedy into triumph recently received a significant boost.
Waller launched the Mace Anthony Williamson Foundation, named after her late baby boy, in 2021 to provide local doula services. Doulas are trained professionals who guide women through childbirth and the postpartum period.
They also provide much-needed emotional support for mothers whose newborns suffer complications or die after birth. The Mace Anthony Willamson Foundation was one of three area nonprofits to pitch their causes from St. Petersburg’s Women’s Club’s historic ballroom Sept. 7 to 100 Women Who Care.
“This unimaginable loss left me with not only grief but a deep sense of purpose,” Waller said between tears. “It compelled me to create an organization that will help make sure no other families experience this heartbreak.”
Following a decidedly emotional presentation, Waller and her team of doulas walked away with $15,000. The money did not come from government grants but directly from local purses.
St. Petersburg’s 100 Women Who Care is an all-volunteer organization that has experienced exponential growth since its March 2020 launch. A search committee selects three local nonprofits from 20 nominees, and attendees contribute $100 at quarterly meetings.
Co-founders Lauren Brigman and Christina Noordstar presented checks totaling $19,000. And a member of the group felt compelled to provide the runner-up, the dePaul School for Dyslexia, with $11,000 for a fence.
After the event, Waller said the award represented answered prayers.
“We’ve done so much with so little,” she added. “Just imagine what we can do when we have what we really need to serve our community. That was a life-changing moment.”
The St. Pete-based Foundation bills itself as a voice for families and babies. It works to foster healthier pregnancies and help mothers – and single fathers, Waller noted – overcome the grief and trauma of childbirth deaths.
Allison Tate, a certified birth companion and doula, noted that African-American women are three times more likely to experience fatal childbirth complications. According to the Foundation’s website, doula support shortens labor by 25%, reduces the rate of cesarean procedures by 50% and results in 60% fewer epidural requests.
“Women and families need more than just minimal care during pregnancy and childbirth,” Waller said. “They need emotional support, education and a sense of community.”
She explained that funding would enhance current services, including a virtual program. Waller also wants to increase marketing materials to expand their reach.
Implementing a maternal health hotline that provides immediate guidance and support is another priority. The Foundation also needs money for additional training.
Waller noted that the nonprofit applied for a Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete grant. She said that would help build a much-needed facility.
The Mace Anthony Williamson Foundation’s doulas currently meet clients at their homes or community hubs. “Sometimes they come from a different type of background where it’s not an ideal situation,” Waller said.
“I had a client I had to meet on her porch,” she added. “She was not comfortable with where she was living. She didn’t want to come to the hub.”
Waller said many clients lack transportation. While she hopes to establish a partnership with Uber, the award will help buy gift cards.
Waller – now a mother to a healthy boy and girl – wants to build off the nonprofit’s newfound momentum. She stressed that the Foundation is more than some “small, Black-led organization.”
“What we’re doing is impacting our community and literally saving lives,” Waller said. “I don’t say that lightly – it’s true. Statistically, it’s proven.”
The other winners
Thanks to the generosity of donors, no one walks away empty-handed at 100 Women Who Care events. The dePaul School for Dyslexia received $2,500 for second place.
One in five people has dyslexia, and the Clearwater-based private school serves 100 children throughout Pinellas County. It also operates on church property and needs a security fence and cameras to protect students.
The fence will also allow it to receive further accreditation.
Selah Freedom received $1,500 for third place. The Sarasota-based organization rescues sex trafficking victims and operates safe houses throughout the region.
The nonprofit also provides adult and child educational resources to prevent sex trafficking.
In addition, Noordstar also announced that 100 Women Who Care raised nearly $7,000 for local Hurricane Idalia victims in just over a week.
Men care, too
The organization’s growth and success have caught the opposite gender’s eye. A group of local, philanthropically inclined men will soon launch 100 Good Guys.
The group will follow the 100 Women Who Care model; the first meeting is Dec. 7. “They’re meeting at really cool places, like Bayboro Brewing,” Noordstar said.
“It will be a little more masculine, which is perfect.”