Volunteer Spotlight: Mom to Mom

Volunteer Spotlight: Mom to Mom


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

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. The 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



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!