Fresh Start for Single Mothers and Their Children Community Outreach Project empowers single mothers so they can become self-sufficient and create positive outcomes for their children.
Bringing together support, information and shared community resources, the program seeks to end the cycle of generational failure in the Richmond, VA area and equip the next generation for success.
According to program director Sylvia Stewart, many Fresh Start moms come from abusive relationships trying to restore their self-esteem. Fresh Start helps them learn new life skills and coping skills, not only offering guidance on managing their finances and getting a job, but also learning how to forgive and move forward in a positive direction.
“One of our mottos is ‘You can’t drive a car looking in a rear view mirror,’” Stewart says.
Families are invited to special events hosted by community partners that include dinner, a specialized skills class, childcare, special K-5th program, teen group and discussion time. During the 20-week program, a stable of expert speakers help single mothers learn concepts for everything from personal finance and seeking employment, to parenting advice, health and wellness tips, basic car care and more. The program also runs an emergency fund that awards small grants to help single mothers actively participating in the program offset unforeseen gaps with money for housing, medical, car and other basic needs.
Run exclusively by volunteers, the program has assisted more than 1,000 single moms and 2,000 children since it began more than a decade ago. A handful of the volunteers that contribute to Fresh Start for Single Mothers and Their Children have gone on to receive the President’s Volunteer Service Lifetime Award.
“Most of our volunteer are single moms who have come thru the Fresh Start program and loved it so much when they graduate that they come back to serve and inspire the new moms,” Stewart explains. “This is a powerful testimony to the success of the program. The women are so transformed.”
Fresh Start also brings on additional volunteers and community partners who work on special needs for families and events throughout the year. The organization is looking to apply its best practices nationally, offering Fresh Start curriculum to other organizations that help single moms and families in transition.
What does Stewart suggest to others who want to make a difference in their communities but don’t know where to begin? “Don’t wait till circumstances are perfect to volunteer,” Stewart says. “Come as you are. No special skills are needed. Just bring a smile and willing heart to help.”