Moms Who Made it Big: Becky Fawcett, Help Us Adopt
Becky Fawcett seems like any working mom with two young kids. Before 9AM, she's changed diapers, fed the kids (and the dog), taken one to school and been to the supermarket before work. But Becky's work isn't a regular 9 to 5 -- she's the founder of a non-profit called HelpUsAdopt.org which gives grants to potential parents who can't afford the average $25,000 in adoption costs.
In three years, the organization has helped "build" 43 families. She doesn't make a dime of income for all her hard work.
The "A-ha" moment
Ten years ago, Becky and her husband, Kipp, were like any other parents-to-be. But then they weren't. After five rounds of IVF, three miscarriages, and $82,000 spent on heartbreak, Becky accepted that she couldn't carry a pregnancy. But she wouldn't accept not being a parent. They began the adoption process with the last of their savings.
While sitting with a lawyer, Becky and Kipp had to sign papers indicating how much each step of the adoption would cost -- $5,000 for this, $800 for that. She asked, "But what happens when you don't have it?" Their lawyer responded, "I've heard of people going into financial ruin or living a childless life."
"I had been stoic up to that point and I heard that and I burst into tears," Becky tells AOL Jobs. "What if that were me?"
On the way home, they decided to do something about it.
Two people? Three jobs? No problem
At the time, Becky ran a successful public relations firm in Philadelphia. Two months after little Jake entered their lives, her husband had a great job opportunity in New York City. Suddenly, Becky was running her firm between two cities, and she had this nagging idea in the back of her head.
Becky couldn't find an adoption grant organization that didn't discriminate and define "adoption" and didn't charge an application fee.
"I sat down and wrote a business plan for what I thought should exist," Becky says. "A $50 application fee could be someone's food money for the week."
With friends chipping in to design the logo, a website, and handle the legal steps to form a 501(c)(3) organization, in June 2006, she sent out a letter to friends telling them about her new passion: Help Us Adopt.
"We didn't ask for money," she says. "A week later I go to the post office and there was a $50 check. So I knew this was going to happen."
Now she spends every waking moment in pursuit of funding to help build families. Help Us Adopt does not discriminate at all: Potential parents can be single, gay, or any race. There are no application fees, and HelpUsAdopt.org grants can go towards domestic, international, or foster adoptions. (Foster adoptions are often free, but some have related fees).
Becky might seem like "Superwoman," but she's human. She made the tough decision to shut down her PR firm when she couldn't find more than 24 hours in the day.
"I am a driven individual. There are times where I am physically exhausted and one more thing has to be done after the kids go to sleep. Then I look at them and I say, 'Someone has an empty room,' and I get back to work. I am so grateful now for the life I have. I don't know what I'd do without these kids."
Her "office" is a desk in her New York apartment. Her "staff" is just her, a project manager, board members, and friends who volunteer.
"I usually don't feel like I balance that well. I run around like a lunatic all day long. I am an amazing multitasker. I don't get it 100 percent right every time. I have a 5-1/2 year old who says, 'I don't want you to go out.' So I explain it to him and he gets it. It's a family commitment."
Her daughter, Brooke, is almost 1-1/2 years old. Becky hates to be away from them so she keeps travel to a minimum. When she does fly, Jake knows he'll get an "airport prize."
Secrets to success
Becky is waiting for that one big check -- one donation that will allow her to hire a full staff and get a real office. While she's thankful that her family survives on her husband's income, she says they make sacrifices to keep HelpUsAdopt.org going. They've skipped vacations, and she often spends her family's money on operations because she doesn't want to spend money that will go toward adoptions.
She likes to quote one particularly successful and charitable woman: "Oprah once said you can have it all but you can't have it at the same time."
While the organization grows and Becky works harder, one moment makes it all worth it.
"When I get the birth announcements in the mail from a family we've helped, that makes it," she says. "I start crying in the post office!"
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Carol Berman, an award-winning journalist, writes the blog, The Scribble Lounge, a unique take on current events and pop culture. She's New York bred and now lives outside Philadelphia.
Over more than 15 years, she spent many years in broadcast journalism as a producer, followed by a short award-winning stint in public relations and now makes a happy return to journalism. An avid news junkie, Carol is also a runner, a recovering triathlete, and dog lover. She loves to bake for friends and family and volunteer with different non-profits.