‘girl time’ to
By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register
The teen age mom nervously stood up, and bravely told all those gathered at the recent Teen Moms Volunteer Appreciation Reception that she had come to the Catholic Social Service program by way of court order.
Soon after joining Teen Moms, though, the young mother was introduced to one of the unsung heroes of CSS, a volunteer who would serve as her mentor for the next year. Soon, the young mom was refusing to leave the program, even when the court deemed it okay to do so.
There are many unsung heroes when it comes to the work of Catholic Social Service, and as the event of April 29 proved, every now and then they get their due.
On that Thursday evening, volunteers who have served for the past year supporting CSS’s Teen Moms Program were honored at a reception at the social hall at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Teen Moms is an outreach program for girls between the ages of 13 and 23 who have chosen to parent, and “who have not yet obtained their high school diploma or are transitioning from high school to full time employment, college course work or technical/certificate programs.”
Hosting the gathering were teen moms themselves; social worker Amy Falcon, who introduced the program when she was hired in 2000; CSS Executive Director Debbie Snapp; and CSS staff member Maria Gutierrez.
Among those honored were the mentors, women who spend at least 10 hours per month with a teen mom -- shopping, attending functions, sharing advice, or simply hanging out.
Also thanked were the meal providers -- mostly individuals, but some restaurants as well -- that provided free meals to the girls at their weekly meeting with CSS. They thanked the teachers who provided lessons in everyday living at the weekly meetings, as well as the prayer guardian, who every week prays for each girls’ intention.
“Teen Moms has been a big support for me,” one of the young moms told those gathered. “They support you all the way. One way they support you is that if you attend the weekly meetings, you get Teen Moms bucks. When I don’t have any money for diapers, I use the Teen Moms bucks and buy some diapers from the store they have in their office. I can also buy clothes, toys, etc….
“Another way Teens Moms has helped me is to give me a mentor. I’m really glad I have a mentor because she has been really helpful. She has been there for me when I needed someone to talk to. I would also like to thank all the food providers. All the food we receive is really good.”
“I originally signed up when I saw the flyer in the church bulletin,” her mentor said. “As a new stay-at-home mom, I was going crazy. I loved my job. I gave it up because it was for the good of my family. … But I had to get out of the house. …”
Having been a teacher, she felt that she had a lot to offer the young mom. What she didn’t know was how much she would benefit, as well.
She explained that the “girl time and talk time” were especially valuable to her. “It benefits both of us to be able to talk away from school, family and work; We can just talk and not have to worry about responsibilities and obligations.”
Another bonus, she said, was that as a mother of a two-year-old, “I’d go to the Wednesday night meetings too, and learned as much as these girls have – different things about parenting styles, time and stress management….”
Prior to Falcon handing out certificates of appreciation to the volunteers, Snapp expressed her appreciation for the volunteers:
“Some of you may know that we received a significant cut to our funding from all the state budget cuts, so we really had to look at how we were going to do the program,” Snapp told those gathered for the reception.
“The girls made a lot of sacrifices and had some good ideas. It’s because of you volunteers and the efforts that you all make that we can continue this program at the level we have. I appreciate that a great deal. Volunteers are very important to CSS and the ministry and mission that we do. I welcome you here tonight and thank you for everything that you do.”