Meet the Moms behind Keep Chatham Thriving! - Union County Moms

Today we are featuring the moms behind Keep Chatham Thriving:
Michelle Lease and MJ Morgan! Keep Chatham Thriving is a grassroots marketing initiative launched to proactively promote and support the small business community in Chatham, NJ during the COVID-19 crisis. Please follow Keep Chatham Thriving on Facebook: and Instagram: Any local businesses in the Chathams that would like to be included in this initiative may email: [email protected]. If you are seeking social media support please email: [email protected]. Read on to learn more about these amazing local moms!

How many children do you have and what are their age(s)?
MJ: Twin girls, age 8

Michelle: Two, Peter -16 and Jane -13

How long have you lived in (your town)? What made you decide to live here?
MJ: We have lived in Chatham for over 5 years. It’s that familiar story many people in this area have, moving from Manhattan to Hoboken, and eventually, our family made our way to the suburbs. Chatham is conveniently in between my family in NJ and my husband’s in NY. I appreciate how easy it is for us to get into NYC on the train so that we can still enjoy the perks of urban life. Chatham schools were also a huge draw for us. And we loved the town the first time we visited. It just felt right for so many reasons.

Michelle: 15 years in Chatham. We moved from NYC and loved the small town feel and neighborhood aspect of Chatham.

Michelle & Family

What’s your favorite family activity Chatham, Madison or Summit?
MJ: Our family loves going out to dinner. Every Friday night you can find the four of us in one of the local restaurants. We also love spending time in Loantaka, whether it’s to walk, run, ride bikes or kick around a soccer ball.

Michelle: We love to take our dogs, yellow labs named Lilly and Daisy, around our neighborhood and see friends and neighbors.

Where’s your favorite place to eat and/or shop Chatham, Madison or Summit?
MJ: Chatham has such great restaurants. I thought I knew them all, but I recently found some new ones (through the ‘Keep Chatham Thriving’ initiative) to try for takeout. It’s tough to name favorites. They are all working really hard right now and dealing with multiple challenges they have never had to face. I am rooting for all of the restaurants and stores in our area, and hope to enjoy them in person soon. Until then, takeout and virtual shopping it is!

Michelle: We love so many of them it’s too hard to choose! We are so lucky to have so many fabulous restaurants in our area.

MJ & Family

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
MJ: I ran the NYC marathon five times, and I’m planning to make it a 6th this November. Whether I am running it, spectating or watching it on TV, it chokes me up every time. Seeing runners from all over the world come together to take on the streets of the greatest city, supporting charitable causes, conquering a major feat, where they are all wholeheartedly cheered on by strangers, overwhelms me. It truly is humanity at its best. My daughters have seen me run it three times, and there is nothing quite like seeing their little faces along the course and hugging them at the finish line.

Michelle: As I mention below, I have a couple online shops. As well working on the Keep Chatham Thriving campaign which was born amidst the COVID crisis. The main purpose of the initiative is to provide marketing support and social media expertise to help them through this difficult time. It has been extremely gratifying to work with the shops and the restaurants. They are so appreciative of our support and all the support of the Chatham community. Together we can Keep Chatham Thriving!

Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
MJ: My husband has been instrumental. We use humor to get through most things. Sometimes you just have to laugh at what our silly, little duo will throw at us. My mother and sister have always been there for me through everything too. I have the best group of college girlfriends who are more like sisters. And I love the good friendships I have made with other moms in Chatham. It really does take a village…

Michelle: My girlfriends who are also parents from Chatham that have been there all the way through the fun times and the tough times!

Are you involved in a business venture, a local organization, a creative endeavor, or in the corporate world? Please share!
MJ: ‘Keep Chatham Thriving’ has been such a rewarding endeavor. I really wanted to do something to help during the pandemic. After a couple of conversations with restaurant owners when the restrictions were put in place, it was obvious that getting their word out to the community was critical. People did not know what was open or how the restrictions were impacting the services of each establishment. Many of them cut hours and modified menus due to staff shortages and less demand. A few of them temporarily closed, and many that remained open implemented curbside pick-up and contactless delivery options to keep customers safe. All of the small business owners are operating under a totally different model than they are used to. They do so much for our community, and I want to do whatever I can to help them get through this.
I also own a social media marketing company, Embel Consulting. I work with businesses on their social media strategy and execution. I was a global marketer at Pfizer for the majority of my career, but Embel allows me flexibility. I get to enjoy the little moments with my girls, while doing something I really enjoy.

Michelle: I have a shop myself, an online shop and two Etsy shops:
The Preppy Gift & Preppy Cornhole Boards. I love creating and coming up with new ideas and they are perfect outlets for me. I’m much better at promoting others than myself!!

How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
MJ: Chatham is such a wonderful community. There is something about it that makes residents want to jump in and make a difference. There has been no shortage of amazing comradery in town during the COVID-19 crisis. The stay-at-home orders certainly make it more challenging to help the way people would under normal circumstances. ‘Keep Chatham Thriving’ strives to make it easier for residents to support local businesses from home by providing useful information about services, merchandise, specials, etc all in one place. It also gives businesses another medium to deliver their messages to the community since the face-to-face contact they are used to is limited or completely restricted in some cases. Everyone from the governing bodies of Chatham Borough & Chatham Township, to the business owners, to the residents have been so supportive of this initiative. It’s incredibly inspiring and motivating. It only makes me want to do more.

Michelle: I have been involved in many volunteer roles in Chatham and feel so fortunate to have such a vibrant, strong group of residents that bring so much to the table. The caliber of volunteer is like no other and the skill sets many of the volunteers have is exceptional. Chairing an event or committee in Chatham isn’t hard especially when your committee is filled with all the dynamos from Chatham!

What’s your favorite form of self care?
MJ: Travel. I find it very therapeutic. I always had the travel bug, but studying my junior year in Spain and traveling through Europe took it to another level. I am lucky to have visited some really interesting places like Tanzania, Thailand and Russia where I spent time writing my grad school thesis for my global health policy degree. It’s rewarding to grow and gain new perspectives by immersing yourself in different cultures and being taken out of your comfort zone. We obviously can’t travel now, so exercise is next in line as my favorite form of self-care. I love running and doing “boot camp” style fitness classes. Our world as we know it has changed, and we are all adjusting to a new normal, so self-care is really important these days.

Michelle: Love to treat myself to a mani/pedi!

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