Megan Caldwell knew her work was impactful, but she just didn't know how much.
Earlier this month, the Lake Oswego mother of three was named Oregon's Mother of the Year for her service to the community, philanthropy and family, from the American Mothers nonprofit organization.
American Mothers selects a National Mother of the Year winner from honorees in each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during a national conference in spring.
Caldwell was nominated as Oregon's honoree by a former client for her work with FIT4MOM — a national organization that helps give moms strength in motherhood by providing fitness classes and "developing a safe space for moms to come to and gain strength, both physical as well as mental and emotional," Caldwell said.
Caldwell owns FIT4MOM NW & NE Portland — though in November she sold the Northwest portion of the business and will soon sell her entire franchise.
"I'm in flux right now in terms of where my next steps are," said Caldwell, adding that she's interested in education and mental health.
Caldwell started operating the Portland FIT4MOM franchise almost seven years ago after she got involved with it herself.
Caldwell said she launched into motherhood at an early age and had no friends with children.
"I found FIT4MOM as a client and it became a safe space for me to go with my brand-new baby to say, 'Is this normal? What about this for diaper changing?' " Caldwell said.
She bought the franchise when she was pregnant with her second child.
"I think similarly in my time as a leader within FIT4MOM, helping foster some of those connections and community has been empowering to me."
Prior to owning FIT4MOM, Caldwell taught special education in Los Angeles.
"I've always been service-oriented in the work I've done," she said. "But it's weird when you've got people looking at you and wanting to celebrate you."
So when Caldwell heard she was nominated for Oregon's Mother of the Year and selected in early January, she was surprised but also excited.
"Since American Mothers was not an organization that I really worked with in the past or knew much about, I immediately just wanted to get to know more about it," she said.
"I'm excited and eager to see how the work I've done here and the platform I've built, how I can go a little bit deeper in terms of seeing what actually do mamas need in Oregon? And how I can maybe help push that forward."
All the state honorees are invited to attend a conference in Washington, D.C., in April. There, Caldwell will have the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for Oregon mothers when meeting with members of Congress.
At the national conference, one state honoree will be named the National Mother of the Year during a gala fundraiser for the Golden Rule Grant Fund — funds that support other nonprofit organizations that provide services for mothers and children.
To Caldwell, she said motherhood is a connector and it doesn't matter what a person's age, race or religion is.
"We're all in this together and can learn from one another," she said. "It looks like the moms (the state honorees) span across a wide age range ... Now I'm mid-30s and I feel like I have a lot more experience under my belt, but just being able to learn from women who are in different stages of motherhood."
At the conference, the mothers will have an opportunity to speak on a panel where they will be presented with a topic and have two to three minutes to talk about their thoughts on the topic.
Caldwell said she's interested in hearing everyones' perspectives.
Between now and April, Caldwell said she will be collecting feedback from moms — items they'd like to have discussed at a higher level.
Caldwell also said there are local opportunities for moms that might be interested in a career with FIT4MOM.
She encourages mothers to email her.
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