Free Moms at NC State

This quirky nonprofit group born in Raleigh offers joyful moments and support to college students each Thursday.
by Nelie Tahssili | photography by Jessie Greenberg

Walk onto North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus on a Thursday morning or Wolf Village on Thursday afternoon, and you’ll see a smiling group of women giving out cookies and hugs. Rain or shine, they’re there; sometimes they bring friendly dogs, too.

The scene is the brainchild of Nancy Nelson, who founded NCSU Free Moms in 2019. “I was praying for a way to do something for young people and saw a street sign that said ‘Mother Nancy’ — and it clicked,” says Nelson. “I could offer a mother’s unconditional love for students who might be having a tough time away from home.”

Now, the NCSU Free Moms meet on campus every Thursday to spread love and provide a safe space for students to be recognized and celebrated. Volunteers give out baked goods, hugs and flowers. There’s even a Happy Birthday stand, with sashes and singers at the ready. After starting with only a few volunteers, Free Moms has grown to include more than 400 volunteers, and Nelson estimates that they serve more than 2,500 students a week. Free Moms now has a presence on four other campuses around the South, as well. 

Nelson’s proud and grateful that her vision has changed the lives of many students: “We have made such a positive impact on this campus.” 

This article originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of WALTER magazine.