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See the creative way this jewelry designer is spoiling single moms on Mother’s Day

Marla Aaron has a plan to make dozens of homeless women feel special and supported.
Jewelry designer Marla Aaron is committed to honoring single moms on Mother's Day.
Jewelry designer Marla Aaron is committed to honoring single moms on Mother's Day.Courtesy Marla Aaron
/ Source: TODAY

Jewelry designer Marla Aaron never forgot the loneliness of single parenthood  — it’s why she’s throwing single moms a Mother’s Day celebration to make them "seen."

While the New York-based entrepreneur counts Blake Lively and Julianne Moore as customers of her signature brand, professional success hasn’t clouded her memories. In 2003, Aaron was a divorced single mom of a 1-year-old son named Max and was working full time at an advertising association. "I would walk to the mailbox filled with dread over my bills," Aaron, 55, told TODAY Parents

In those days, becoming a jewelry designer was "an absolute fantasy," a hobby she indulged in after her son went to sleep. It would be a decade before Aaron remarried and had the financial resources (and the courage) to quit her job and start a business, aided in part by her son and stepson who taught her how to use  Instagram to advertise her designs. 

As Aaron’s business grew, so did her wish to give back — and this year she’s going big, throwing a Mother’s Day luncheon for homeless single moms affiliated with Henry Street Settlement, a nonprofit social services agency in the city’s Lower East Side, where Aaron’s son took piano lessons as a child. 

On Saturday, May 7, 60 women from Henry Street and its various shelters will gather at the center for a catered brunch with all the fixings and a "flower market" to create customized bouquets. Meanwhile, their combined 50 children will be supervised by Henry Street staff while they decorate vases for their moms, play games and eat pizza. About 80% of the women who are planning to attend the luncheon are homeless.

Related: Want to help moms in need this Mother’s Day? Here are 5 ways to make a difference

"This is a unique opportunity to stop the world for a moment and create the space to put daily challenges on hold and focus on how special and important it is to be a mom," David Garza, the president and chief executive officer of Henry Street Settlement, told TODAY. 

The women also will leave brunch with "Lock Your Mom" jewelry, a Mother’s Day initiative Aaron started in 2016 to recognize single moms. Through the company website, anyone can nominate a single mom to receive a free sterling-silver lock engraved with an exclamation point, a symbol for the power of mothers.

When the project first began, Aaron distributed 50 locks. Since then, she estimates that she’s given away at least 5,000 locks in total. Of the 1,500 locks mailed out this year, another 500 will be gifted to single moms associated with Henry Street.  

"Lock Your Mom" jewelry designed by Marla Aaron.
"Lock Your Mom" jewelry designed by Marla Aaron.Courtesy Marla Aaron

The adoring mom nominations make the project worthwhile for Aaron. “Some of the nominations have made me cry,” she said. 

Many submissions are from men (and one teenage boy) who want to reward their moms, friends, coworkers or neighbors. One, who asked Aaron to keep him anonymous, nominated a single mom who feels “guilty” for rushing out of work to pick up her kids. “He said, ‘I want her to be seen,’” Aaron recalled. 

Another nod came from a woman who spots a neighbor looking exhausted while leaving her home every morning and returning. 

“The idea that I could ever walk away from this project — I can only see it getting bigger,” Aaron said. “What more can I do?”