Mom to Mom

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT

The Czarnecki & Sapp families

Photograph  & Article by Andrea Six

Help can come in unlikely ways. Sometimes a small moment, like helping a child build a s’more, can create a powerful change. Though the lives of Gloria Sapp, Amy Czarnecki and their families, differ drastically from their newfound friends at Union Mission’s Magdalene House, they were able to connect with something as simple as a backyard campfire.

Each month Amy and Gloria, along with their two families of four, volunteer at Magdalene House, Union Mission’s emergency shelter for women with children and spend some time with the families there. Every time they volunteer, they do something different. From game and pizza nights to cookie decorating days with hot cocoa, there’s a lot of fun when these families get together at the Magdalene House.

But the best night of all? That’s s’mores night, hands down.

Just a few months ago, Amy and Gloria’s small group went over to the Magdalene Project after dinner with a fire pit and all of the fixin’s for s’mores in tow.

 

“The kids were outside playing when we got there and we set up the fire pit, Amy explained. “One of the boys we keep in touch with was the first one in line. He was so excited. He had his marshmallow roaster out and he was ready, sitting right next to my husband to make his s’more because he had never done that before.”

Gloria, a teacher and married mother of two, brings a bag of goodies to surprise the kids with—sometimes there’s crowns and cards or bubbles and other fun treats. She’ll pass them out to the kids and they can play while the mothers chat and connect. Those connections can be so strong that, on more than one occasion, the families exchange contact information and stay in touch.

“As mothers and people with family, I feel like it’s really easy to connect with them because they’re mothers with children,” Gloria revealed. “It’s easier for me to relate and talk to them. You hear their struggles and can encourage them.”

Volunteering is very much a family affair. Their children are dedicated volunteers and will ask when they get to go see their friends at Magdalene. The relationships there go beyond a traditional playdate. When Amy’s children noticed that their friends were just sleeping with pillows and blankets, it spurred them to ask what they could do to help.

“It’s easy to sit back and say we should do something, we should act. These social injustices are easy to complain about, but if you get out in your community, you’ll realize there’s so many ways to make a difference, even a small difference, and make a fun night for someone,” said Amy.

Raising Hope 2017 Recap

Andrea Six

Union Mission Volunteer

Dr. Bertice Berry has a way with laughter. She says it’s “such a gift” and has the ability to turn a stark situation around.

“I have the power to change someone else’s life,” she said, encouraging the audience on Thursday, April 20 during Union Mission’s second annual Raising Hope fundraising dinner at the Hyatt Regency. “What we don’t tap into is how that difference can charge us to keep going.”

Raising Hope 2017

Photograph by John McKinnon

The sixth of seven children, Berry grew up poor in Wilmington, Delaware. After she was told that she “not college material,” Berry was gifted with the support of another instructor who believed she was destined for more. Because this one person encouraged and helped her apply to schools, she not only went to college, but graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University in Florida and went on too obtain a masters degree in two semesters, later earning Ph.D. in Sociology from Kent State University.

And it all started with one person believing in her, encouraging her and helping her take one step forward. This did not just enable her, but allowed her to help others and give them hope.

“When you set a person free, you set an entire village free,” she told the audience. “Just because you’re not there to see, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

In her speech, Berry told of her mother’s alcoholism when she was a child and explained how the cycle does not have to continue—you can be the one to stop it. Her mother told her this before she passed away—that she was taking all the baggage with her and that her daughter could live a life free of those chains. T

he crowd sat in awe, laughing right along with Berry as she told of the incredible individuals who helped her and those who annoyed the heck out of her along the way.

Dr. Bertice Berry speaking at Raising Hope 2017

Photograph by John McKinnon

Today, Dr. Berry lives with her five adopted children in Savannah, where she is active in supporting organizations benefitting those in need. While she has graciously donated the royalties from the sales of her books to organizations that help families in transition, raised funds for scholarships and helped provide resource information to low-income families, she encourages others to get involved in whatever way they can.

“We all possess the power to make some else’s day better. It doesn’t take much,” Berry said. “Sometimes we have to remind ourselves: I have the power to change someone else’s life.”

A Place to Rebuild: Jennifer’s Story

A Place to Rebuild: Jennifer’s Story

STORIES OF CHANGE

Jennifer

Photograph by Maggie Lynn, Article by Andrea Six

Motherhood is a balancing act. Keeping everything going, even when things get rough, is just part of the job description. When Mom gets sick, it can be a real challenge for the family to keep that balance. When the illness is prolonged and Mom is sick for months, that balance can disappear completely, along with the family’s stability. That’s what happened to Jennifer and her two children. 

“Once I become ill, it takes about nine months for me to fully recover,” she explained.

She’d faced similar challenges in the past but this time was much worse. Despite her illness, she wanted to ensure her children had what they needed.

“Having children and being homeless is more overwhelming. It’s more stressful because, as a mother, you want to protect your kids. You want their feelings to be protected, you don’t want them to be so concerned about what’s going on. You don’t want them to try and mature too quickly,” Jennifer said.

She turned to her family for a helping hand but that only led to more instability and, eventually, Jennifer and her kids were back on the street. With her support system gone, Jennifer knew she needed more than just a shelter. Looking for real help to rebuild her life, she found Union Mission’s Magdalene House.

 

Living at the Magdalene House with other single mothers helped Jennifer provide her kids with some stability – a safe place to rest, recharge, and rebuild. It also showed her that change was possible. With Union Mission’s help, Jennifer has not just found a place to stay, but a program dedicated to providing her the help she needs to take those next steps.

“I think the most positive thing is that you have someone there working with you that’s able to obtain resources along with you. Right now I am working on getting a job. I’m actually working on three things: one is a job, the second is a place of my own, and also insurance for myself and my children,” Jennifer said.

Union Mission exists to help mothers just like Jennifer rebuild their lives and leave their homelessness behind. Your support means hope for a better tomorrow for homeless mothers and children. Thank you for sharing hope and help in our community!

STORIES OF CHANGE

STORIES OF CHANGE

Home Safe: Logan’s Story

Home Safe: Logan’s Story

Logan and her children

Photograph by Maggie Lynn

STORIES OF SUCCESS

Home Safe: Logan’s Story

Homelessness can happen for many different reasons. A victim of domestic violence, with no network of support, can quickly find she’s exchanged one perilous living situation for another. Bravely leaving behind an abusive relationship, Logan knows all too well that the best choice for a family can be the one that leads to a homeless shelter.

After finding help at Magdalene Project, she also knows that having support can make a big difference. The support she received from Union Mission gave her the tools to rebuild her life.

“Having grown up in foster care, I don’t have any family or anything like it,” Logan said. “So that was the reason I stayed so long … not having that support system.”

With no support and nowhere to turn, she knew she needed tools to leave homelessness behind and move her family into safe, stable housing.  Union Mission’s emergency shelter for women, Magdalene Project, gave her those tools.

“It was important because I needed time to get back on my feet,” Logan said. “Magdalene Project gave us a safe place to live where I could care for my children while I got back to work.”

Being homeless with children is a difficult situation but trying to overcome homelessness while parenting a child with special needs an be overwhelming. Logan has two children – a son who is 8 years old and a daughter who is 14 years old and has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Magdalene Project provided Logan with the ability to take of her children and meet their needs.

“It promotes family. It keeps women with their children,” Logan said.”I needed help – help I couldn’t get anywhere else – in order to be successful and to provide.”

Union Mission gave Logan the ability to keep her family together while she found work and a new home for them to call their own. Thanks to those who continue to support Union Mission, families like Logan’s will find the support they need to rebuild their lives.

Raising Hope: A Journey from the Streets to Success

Raising Hope: A Journey from the Streets to Success

Dr. Bertice Berry, author and speaker

NEWS

Raising Hope: A Journey from the Streets to Success

On Thursday, April 20, Dr. Bertice Berry, inspirational speaker and best-selling author of “I’m On My Way, But Your Foot Is On My Head,” will step on stage to share her inspiring story as this year’s keynote speaker at Raising Hope, Union Mission’s annual spring fundraising event.

The sixth of seven children, Berry grew up poor in Wilmington, Delaware. Told by a high school teacher that she was “not college material,” Berry was nonetheless gifted with the support of another instructor who believed she was destined for more. With help and hope, Berry applied to college, eventually graduating Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University in Florida. She would go on to earn a Ph.D. in Sociology from Kent State University.

Far from the poverty of her youth, Berry was now the teacher inspiring hope in the hearts of young adults. Sbe began teaching at Kent, her lectures becoming so popular the school had to find larger lecture halls to accommodate the ever-increasing number of students.

“A colleague said to me, ‘You’re funny,’ and I said, ‘No I’m not, I’m a scholar,” recounts Dr. Berry.

It was then she realized using humor in her lectures to address such difficult subjects made a profound impact. From there, Dr. Berry became an award-winning entertainer, lecturer, and comedian, even winning the coveted national Comedian of the Year Award. Soon her schedule came to include over 200 appearances a year.

Today, Dr. Berry lives with her five adopted children in Savannah, where she has taken a very active role in supporting organizations that benefit those in need – a support that has not gone unrecognized. In 2011, Savannah Technical College President Dr. Kathy Love along with Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson dedicated a new Student Enrichment Facility to Dr. Berry and presented her with the Bertice Berry Change & Transformation Classrooms.

 

In addition to her community involvement, Berry has graciously donated all of the royalties from the sales of her books to organizations that help families in transition, raise funds for scholarships, and provide resource information to low-income families. She understands that people need more than just encouragement to move forward, but believes motivation and purpose are the foundation of change which will get individuals on the right journey.

“When you walk with purpose,” Dr. Berry says, “you collide with destiny!”

Raising Hope will be held on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency in Savannah. The evening will begin with a reception at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Dress is business casual and tickets are $125 a person or $1,100 for a table of 10. For patron tickets and sponsorship opportunities, contact Laura Lane McKinnon at (912) 236- 7423 ext. 1148 or lmckinnon@unionmission.org.