‘Scary Mommy’ Blogger Helps 300+ Families Afford Thanksgiving

Mildly Inappropriate Mommy meets Scary Mommy…

After a week of getting very, very, very little sleep, mom of three Jill Smokler is preparing to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen people.

Others in her shoes (OK, me) might be tempted to abandon all culinary ambitions and rename the holiday Pizza-giving, complete with an origin story of how the pilgrims invented mozzarella.

But Smokler plans to soldier on. And for the record, it’s not her own Thanksgiving dinner that’s kept the Maryland mom up at night – it’s other people’s dinners. Smokler runs the wildly popular Scary Mommy blog and parenting website. In recent months, she’s been moved by the messages readers have left on her pages – notes like, “My husband just lost his job. I have no idea how we are going to put food on the table.”

Last week, Smokler decided to do something to help. In a Nov. 13 post, she asked readers who felt they had money to spare to offer $25 donations that could be used to buy grocery store gift cards for readers who said they couldn’t afford to buy food for Thanksgiving. Her goal was to match two donors to each person asking for assistance on her blog.


Jill Smokler, a.k.a. "Scary Mommy" with her children. (Courtesy Jill Smokler)

The response, she told me, was “intense.”

More than 600 readers offered to help, contributing more than $18,000 in cash and gift cards – enough to provide dinner for 378 families. Some donated more than $25, while others – who weren’t flush with cash but still wanted to participate – donated as little $5 or $1.

“I was really touched,” she said. “I’ve alternated between feeling warm and fuzzy and glowing to just tearing up.”

Smokler said she put donors in touch with the families they’re helping. Some of the donors, she said, sent letters to the families, along with coupons, cards and little gifts. Recipients have left messages of gratitude on her site and on her Facebook page.

“I just got a beautiful card with Walmart gift cards in it from the Clarke’s in Virginia!” one Facebook “Scary Mommy” fan wrote. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart! My son & I will include you all in our Thanksgiving prayers!”

The logistics of it all were daunting,  Smokler said.

“I am not somebody who does spreadsheets and has great planning mind,” she admitted. “I ended up handwriting everything on index cards. It took over my entire house.”

She also tried to ensure fraudsters weren’t hitting her up by checking the IP addresses of people submitting requests for aid through her blog to make sure there were no repeats.

Organizational headaches aside, Smokler said she’s hooked.

“Next year, hopefully this whole process will be easier,” she told readers on her blog. “And, yes, there will be a next year.”

Jill Smokler’s book, “Confessions of a Scary Mommy,” will be published April 3.

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