‘Proxy Momma’ cooks up kindness for students away from home
When Adrienne Conde picked up a phone call in February from a mother whose daughter, a freshman at USF, had just been in a car accident, she didn’t hesitate hopping in her car to help the student.
“She was crying on the side of the road and her mom called me and was like, ‘My daughter’s on the side of the road, she was in a wreck,’ and I went and picked her up, talked to the police officer, and the man she hit was being mean so I kind of set him straight,” Conde said. “And I was like, ‘You know, she’s crying. Can’t you see?’ And then I drove her home.”
Her business “Proxy Momma” typically consists of delivering treats to USF students whose parents aren’t close enough to visit. Living by her slogan, “There for your Bull when you can’t be,” Conde said she will do whatever a situation calls for to help out a student.
Conde guided and supported freshman Malena Pacheco through the situation after Pacheco burned her hand at home and then got into a car accident on her way to urgent care. She said she put herself in the shoes of Karen Kathleen, Pacheco’s mother, and hoped that if her daughter were to find herself in that situation, someone would help her.
Kathleen — who lives in Jupiter, and decided to contact Proxy Momma based on recommendations she had seen on Facebook groups — was grateful for the help her daughter received and described Conde as a “Godsend.”
“There are not enough positive words in this world to explain how much it meant to me and my daughter for her to show up and help,” Kathleen said.
“She gave my daughter a hug, and even drove the car back to campus to make sure that it drove OK. Afterwards, she called me to give me peace of mind and let me know how everything turned out.”
The service Conde provided was inspired by her eight years working as a missionary in Chile and by the aid she has given to others through her church. When she established Proxy Momma on Facebook in September 2019, she knew she wanted to continue helping people with her business.
Since then, her services have spread by word of mouth. She has clients from Egypt, Singapore, Argentina, England, Brazil, Peru, El Salvador and South Africa that found her through Facebook. She said she feels grateful by how much Proxy Momma has grown over the past year.
“I have people from everywhere contact me and it’s just amazing, kind of surreal,” Conde said. “You’re like, ‘How did this all happen?’ That’s just a blessing. I just can’t get over it sometimes, like I have to pinch myself.”
On regular workdays, Conde receives orders from parents who want to send their children sweets or snacks for birthdays, exam weeks and holidays. Her daughter — who came up with the slogan — and her husband have helped her with scheduling and delivering orders. Conde and her family live just 0.3 miles from the Tampa campus, making the trip to help students easy.
While she doesn’t charge for all of her services, her food items and flowers are all assigned a variety of prices. Some of her most inexpensive treats and parfaits are just $10 apiece, while her most expensive items, charcuterie boards, can cost over $60.
Personalizing the treats for students by attaching cards with messages from their parents or surprising them with snacks and food whenever they are sick made Conde feel satisfied with the business she created.
“It’s a neat feeling,” Conde said. “The parents, they feel at peace knowing that somebody is here to take care of their students. So it brings a lot of peace of mind.”
Her clients have recommended her to other parents because of her quick responses. In Facebook reviews, many have said they trust her services. Maureen Cunningham, one of the clients, has lost track of the number of times she has ordered from Proxy Momma. She said her favorite order was her daughter’s birthday cake which was personalized based on her major.
“She asked what my daughter was majoring in and I said environmental science, and she made the most beautiful cake,” Cunningham said.
“It was different color blues to look like the ocean and then she used, I guess it must be sugar or something, but she made it brown and put it on the chocolate cake so it looked like sand. And then she made white chocolate shells, and put those on top of the cake.”
The order shocked Victoria Hart, Cunningham’s daughter, who said she didn’t think she would get something from her mother, who lives in Key West, on her birthday. She was happy when she received it.
“I loved it so much, it made my birthday very special,” Hart said. “And I definitely was not expecting something from my mom, or the Proxy Momma.”
Hart said Proxy Momma’s services are thoughtful and, from her experience, well executed.
“She puts a lot of work and effort into the thing she makes, and she’s really genuine about it,” Hart said. “She is always in a good mood and she always says she has the biggest smile on her face when she gives the kid the package.”
Based on her interactions with Conde, Cunningham said she feels she can rely on her to surprise her daughter. She said Proxy Momma is a mother to everyone and described her as a “good person with a big heart.”
“She does it because she loves the college adults, and I just trust her,” Cunningham said. “I mean, she [has] done some incredible things. She [has] helped students that are broken down on the side of the highway … and she just loves doing what she does. So I know I can depend on her to get the job done.”
Conde said her job is a blessing. She is grateful to have people recognize the effort she puts into being the Proxy Momma.
“It blows my mind … people just recommending me,” Conde said. “A parent will put out there ‘How can I send flowers to my daughter or my son who’s having a hard time?’ and somebody will put a florist and all of a sudden somebody will put my name and then … within a few minutes, 10 to 15 people put ‘Proxy Momma, Proxy Momma, Proxy Momma.’
“It makes me feel proud of what I’m doing and that people, they appreciate it.”