Community

New single moms support brought closer to 'home'

Sarah and Solomon of Aldergrove will now be able to attend the YWCA
Sarah and Solomon of Aldergrove will now be able to attend the YWCA's single mothers' program in Aldergrove, thanks to funding from three credit unions.
— image credit: Submitted photo

The YWCA Metro Vancouver is expanding its Single Mothers’ Support Services program to Aldergrove and four other new communities, thanks to a three-year $450,000 commitment by three B.C. credit unions.

The YWCA’s Single Mothers’ Support Program works to ensure women parenting alone are able to achieve personal and economic independence. Funding commitments by Coast Capital Savings, Vancity and Envision Financial, a division of First West Credit Union, will allow new support groups to be established in Surrey, Port Coquitlam, Aldergrove, Maple Ridge and Abbotsford.

Previously, single mothers had to travel into Vancouver to take advantage of the service.

The YWCA program expansion is the result of the vision of three female credit union CEOs — Coast Capital’s Tracy Redies, Vancity’s Tamara Vrooman, and First West’s Launi Skinner — who decided to pool resources to ensure much-needed services are available to more single mothers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

“I am inspired by the generosity of the three credit unions and the exceptional women who lead them – Tracy Redies, Tamara Vrooman and Launi Skinner,” says Janet Austin, CEO YWCA Metro Vancouver.

“They show us the true meaning of co-operation and they demonstrate that it is possible for competitors to collaborate to drive positive social change. With their support, the YWCA can create the conditions for many single mothers to build better futures for themselves and their children.”

Approximately 15 per cent of families in Langley are run by single mothers, the majority of whom reside in the city centre. Aldergrove has the next highest population of lone parents and is a more isolated community due to poor transit. Recent research says that Langley and Aldergrove are in need of more services that will support these single mothers. At present, there are a wide range of services for families but no programs specifically designed for single mothers in this area.

The YWCA’s Single Mothers’ Support Services expansion initiative will help address this need in Aldergrove. It will mean that more single mothers can easily access these crucial services locally and gain the confidence, knowledge and tools to seek employment, go back to school or find safe, affordable housing and child care among many other things. A support group is now available at Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services.

Sarah Neault is a single mom to a six-month-old baby, Solomon, and lives in Aldergrove. Until now, she has had to spend significant time in the car traveling into downtown Vancouver to take part in the existing Single Moms’ Support Groups. She calls them her lifeline, thanks to the skills, experience, training and networks she has gained through the service, despite some of the challenges she has experienced from being a single mom in a more isolated area.

In an interview with The Aldergrove Star, Sarah said, "Just after getting pregnant — it was a surprise — I 'googled' single moms programs and found the Y, so I emailed Janice and she said they didn't have anything yet for new moms; the babies had to be 18 months old. She sent me some information on things to do to get ready.

"Then a couple months later she emailed me again and said they were going to start a moms and babies program, so I joined that a year ago in October, while I was three months pregnant.

"The biggest help has been the support of the other women. It's been amazing having women in the same position, who have been through it recently. We have had moms with babies up to 18 months old in our group, as well as pregnant moms. So just seeing and hearing their stories and understanding it's possible to do it on your own alleviates some of the anxieties that came up early on.

"We get together and organize different things that we wanted to do; getting someone to come in and help us with financial planning, somebody that teaches infant First Aid, we even had someone come in and do family photos for us because it's hard when you're a single mom getting pictures of you and your baby unless it's arm's length away with an iPhone or something.

"We meet downtown at the YWCA child care but I live in Aldergrove, I moved out here when I was five or six months pregnant just to take a little breather and save some money. I moved in with my parents but my dad passed just 12 days before Sol was born, and so I'm sticking around here for a while until both mom and I are ready to be on our own again.

"Mom is doing well. I think it's been really good for both of us to have Solomon. He helps us to focus on the present and the future. He's just such a happy little man. Even at the worst of times he's got a giggle for you.

"I did work downtown in Gastown for an architecture firm up until my maternity leave and I'll be back at work mid-March. I got a full year off, which was really nice.

"I was raised in Coquitlam and my parents moved out here about three years ago while I was away at university. I stayed for a few months when I first graduated then moved downtown because that's where I intended to make my life, but things change when you have a little one.

"We go every Saturday, our group. I've made some really good friends so I often go Tuesdays, we have an informal brunch where people drop in, depending on if they're available, just to kinda hang out. Sometimes I'll go in one more day depending on what's going on.

"We send lots of text messages, email back and forth, sometimes it's exchanging photos because we want to see each other's babies as they grow.

"About 10 moms come regularly, a total of 15 but some don't come all the time.

"We met the (credit union CEOs) when they announced the additional funding so we could have some support out in the Fraser Valley. Which will be really nice, the idea is to have a single moms group in Aldergrove so we can make local connections.

"Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services' new support group is in the works. I think I'm going to do both for the time being because I have such a strong connection with the moms in Vancouver, and that's the only moms and babies group so far. It was the only one in B.C.; it was originally a pilot program. The group in Aldergrove will be for any single moms with kids up to the age of 18 years old. It'll be a different type of group of women, and it'll be interesting to get to know single moms at other stages in life but I think I would miss the ladies from my group too much to completely cut off contact.

"So I'll do both for now and hope that they expand the moms and babies program all over B.C. eventually.

"One of the really nice things we get at the moms and babies program at the Y are diapers, people donate diapers. They also donate grocery gift cards and both of those really help myself and the other moms. To get through week to week, makes a big difference. And in general the Y is so supportive of single moms and I appreciate that," said Sarah.

Earlier this summer a three-year partnership was approved with each credit union contributing $50,000 per year to the program. This will fund six single mothers’ support groups, providing participants with the resources to gain employment, go back to school, or find safe and affordable housing. Participating moms will also receive child care information, legal education and other community support.

Tracy Redies, President & CEO, Coast Capital Savings, told The Aldergrove Star that, "About a year ago I was at a YWCA Women of Distinction program and they had a section on some of the issues facing single moms, and I was just struck by how lucky I had been in my life and just how difficult it must be for for single moms trying to raise children on their own.

"I've had a tremendous admiration for Janet Austin and the YWCA for what they do in the community, selflessly, all the time and I thought why couldn't the three of us, Tamara Vrooman, President and CEO Vancity, and Launi Skinner, CEO, First West Credit Union, and I come together to help Janet in helping these single moms, it would be the right thing to do. We contacted Janet and started looking for a program that would meet the needs of these single moms.

"There are never enough services and unfortunately in this day and age there is a lot of pressure on governments to fund services. I really do feel businesses need to step up and help these organizations, help these people who are less fortunate.

"The nice thing about this program is it is extending the program to six communities, so the YWCA can provide these services closer to the homes of these women. We've always been about giving back to the communities we work in, we're just delighted to help," said Redies.

Moms will meet weekly with a trained facilitator while their children are in child care at a local community services centre. All support groups are offered in partnership with local community service providers.

For more information on the Single Mothers’ Support Services program and local group details, visit: www.ywcavan.org/singlemothers or telephone 604-895-5849.

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