Story by NJMonthly.com

On February 18, 1999, Susan Rose got the phone call every parent fears. The oldest of her four daughters, 40-year-old Lauren, had been killed in a car accident while vacationing in Morocco, leaving behind her husband and three children. Mourning the loss immobilized Rose and forced her to retire from her job as a state employee. She calls what happened next “a wonderful effort by family and friends to help me work through my grief.” Given Lauren’s penchant for helping others, they suggested Rose start a charity in Lauren’s name.

The proposal resonated with Rose, now 71. After years of work in government, she was often troubled by the women, especially single mothers, whom she saw struggling. “I wanted to reach out and help a mom before she fell through the cracks,” she says. “These women have to keep going, and often do so without the acknowledgement and support they need.” Rose and a group of volunteers met with a social-service provider to see what unmet needs these women had, and came up with health and beauty products. “That’s got to be the last thing they think to spend money on,” says Rose.

To date, Rose and her team have distributed more than 15,000 gift baskets to mothers struggling financially, mothers with children in the hospital, the elderly, and others. “Her daughter’s life was taken from her, and now she’s turned that around, and all she wants to do is give,” says Rita Shusted, a friend and volunteer. In addition to the Mothers Matter gift-basket program, the Lauren Rose Albert Foundation provides textbook assistance for mothers enrolled in college at six participating schools and emergency grants to help mothers in crisis pay their bills.

“I think Lauren would be really proud. I know she’d be proud. She’d be smiling,” says Rose. “And at some point, though I can’t tell you exactly when, I found peace.”