Teen Moms, CSS, offer heartfelt

‘thank you’ to volunteers

Leticia Flores was 17 years old, new to Dodge City, and had a one-year-old daughter when she found friends and support through the Teen Moms program of Catholic Social Service – the only program of its kind in Kansas.
    On May 1, Flores, other young moms in the program, and CSS staff, joined at the cathedral to honor the many volunteers who have supported the girls and the program since it began six years ago.
    Flores, like the other young moms in the program, wore a big smile as the volunteers filtered into the gathering, where they enjoyed fruit, cake and tea before a brief presentation.

    “The volunteers are the mentors, meal providers, teachers, board members, and the prayer guardian,” explained program coordinator Amy Falcon, a social worker with CSS who brought the program to the Diocese of Dodge City.
    Each week, the participants, who must be between ages 13 and 23, meet with Falcon and Terry Leos, program assistant, where they enjoy a meal together while taking part in a workshop presented by a volunteer teacher. The workshop may include lessons on everything from parenting, to preparing their taxes, to applying for a college, to interviewing for a job.
    Although not represented at the meeting, the participants also made sure to thank the many area restaurants that have, with the help of Leos who busily called the restaurants and with little urging garnered their help, provided free meals to the girls at each of their meetings.
    “The goal is for girls to attend 75 percent of the meetings throughout year,” Falcon said. “We focus on education -- at least through high school and hopefully beyond that.
    “It’s exciting,” she added, smiling. “We have four girls graduating from high school and two from college.”
    New to the program is the volunteer “prayer guardian.” At each weekly meeting, the girls write prayers on a note card and put them in a box. They are then taken to volunteer Barbie Flax, who makes a point to pray for each intention.
    “We really want to say that we appreciate our prayer guardian, Barbie,” said Natalie, one of the young moms, who gave a presentation voicing the thanks of all the girls. “We were talking about it at our last meeting and every body was saying, ‘Yeah; everything we wrote down on that card is really coming true.’ I prayed that I could do well in school and get good grades -- because I’m so busy -- and so far it’s working!”
    After her presentation, awards were presented to the volunteers in attendance.
    At the tender age of 16, Flores found herself a new mom in a land far from her home in Washington. Like it has for the other members, Teen Moms has provided Flores with a strong base – fostered on faith, friendship and guidance – on which she can build her future. Today, at 18, she’s a high school graduate working with at-risk children at Bright Beginnings. She hopes to go to college in the fall and become an RN.  
    “Teen Moms helped because I met new people,” she said. “I got to learn more about parenting. Each week there’s a different topic that we’re taught. If you need anything, they help you. That’s nice to know.”
    Debbie Snapp, executive director of CSS, told the volunteers, “We especially appreciate the gift you give to CSS through your volunteering. I want to make sure you know how much I appreciate it. We’re very proud of this program. … You all help us be successful. I also want to tell you -- you gals -- you also make us very proud. Your success represents CSS very well. I want to encourage you to keep working because I know you work very hard. I want to thank you for representing us so well.”
    The program is currently seeking women to serve as mentors for the young moms. They must be willing to donate approximately 10 hours per month for one year. For more information, call Falcon at (620) 227-1562.