By Richard L. Gaw
In celebration of spring, the theme of this year's YoungMoms third annual fundraising brunch, held April 26 at The Garage Community & Youth Center in Kennett Square, was “Hope Blooms.”
While the facility was packed with floral decorations and resplendent with colorful and diverse artwork and other items donated for silent auction, the truest form of the event's theme was found in the many stories told between young mothers and their mentors.
Some young mothers and their mentors shared their stories at the event, including Nancy Lopez of Avondale and her mentor, Michelle Keenan of Wilmington.
“I look at my being a mentor to Nancy as being a great investment of my time,” said Keenan. “I have loved getting to know Nancy and her one-year-old daughter, Kayla. We problem solve together, and we've established a strong bond of trust between us.”
“Michelle has become like another family member to me, and she's been there since the beginning,” Lopez said. “Being a young mother hasn't always been easy, but Michelle has helped me establish goals, and if for any reason I may have slipped along the way, she'll encourage me to get back to those goals.”
Lopez said that she would like to complete high school and obtain her drivers' license.
Since 2010, YoungMoms has empowered the lives of young women throughout southern Chester County by helping them to establish goals, and provide academic, vocational relational and parenting support. Perhaps the largest contribution that the group makes to young women is linking them with a mentor who provides on-on-one reassurance and direction to them throughout the course of their early motherhood years.
“This event not only allows the people of Chester County to contribute to YoungMoms either financially or with their time, but more importantly, it's an opportunity to celebrate the young women who have accomplished academically or personally,” said Linda Mercner, YoungMoms director. “It's a chance to walk beside a young woman.”
Kristin Proto, executive director of The Garage Community & Youth Centers in Kennett Square and West Grove, said that the YoungMoms organization stemmed out of the plight of a young woman who had frequented the Garage three years ago. She was expecting her first child at the time, and was friends with four other young women who were also pregnant.
“They began to brainstorm ideas on how they could remain connected in a way that fit in with their new lives, and it began to blossom from there,” Proto said.
Although YoungMoms is currently working partnership with The Garage, Proto said that at some point in the near future, the organization will operate self-sufficiently.
Landenberg artist Nanci Hersh, who coordinated a recent art project with YoungMoms, donated her artwork for the auction, as did Keenan, who donated one of her paintings; and 18 area businesses.