December 2021

These single moms are helping themselves but could use a few more hands

Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch
By Theodore Decker
December 19, 2021

Jasmine Wooten had been volunteering with Motherful for about two years when she decided to take advantage of the nonprofit organization’s holiday drive.

At this time last year, she was a full-time student finishing up her undergraduate degree in social work at Ohio State University. Money was tight, and it was shaping up to be a lean Christmas for her two children.

“That (drive) literally made sure that my children had Christmas,” she said. But the donor who sponsored her family hadn’t thought of only her kids.

The donor had paid for her to receive a massage at a day spa.

Her voice shook ever-so-slightly when she told the story to me last week.

“To have a stranger give me that kindness and recognition … was really, really impactful,” Wooten said. “It really made a difference in our holiday.”

Begun three years ago by a handful of single moms looking for ways to support one another, Motherful is still in its infancy as a nonprofit organization. One of its founders, Heidi Howes, said the group continues to experience growing pains, particularly in its quest for donor support.

You can help. If you’re looking for ways to give this holiday season, consider Motherful.

Since its founding by Howes and two other women in late 2018, the group has helped other moms pay their rent, provided transportation, arranged for job interviews and held clothing swaps.

This is the second year that Motherful has held a holiday drive.

“Holidays are pretty rough for single moms,” she said. “Even a small donation makes a huge difference, for real. Most moms, they can make their rent, they can make their utilities, but after that there’s really not a lot left over. The holiday drive is just another way to relieve some of that pressure.”

Last year, Wooten’s family was one of 35 to be helped by the drive. This year 44 families signed up. Motherful aims at donations of $75 per person in each family. This year they’re running behind.

“We’re about $3,000 from our goal,” Howes said on Thursday.

The idea behind Motherful is to build a community of single moms who can pool resources and knowledge as they navigate solo parenting. But just as important, Howes said, is the sense of camaraderie that has developed.

About 20% of U.S. children are being raised by single moms, according to the Pew Research Center. Yet a single mom can feel like it is her against the world, Howes said.

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Motherful sought to “solve this problem that we have, where we’re so isolated,” she said. “For a lot of us who didn’t have family support — I didn’t have any family in town — you’re just really drowning all the time.”

For many, she said, that isolation and disconnect deepened during the pandemic.

At a recent call to action for more affordable housing, Stephanie Hightower, president of the Columbus Urban League, said her organization had since July fielded 12,000 calls from people seeking help because they felt they were at risk of losing their homes.

“Most of these calls were from Black single moms,” Hightower said.

“The housing crisis is huge, just the way rent prices have gone up,” Howes said. “Homeownership is really out of the picture for a lot of single moms.”

Since that first brainstorming session led to Motherful’s creation, the group has started a resource pantry, a food share program that partners with Trader Joe’s, and a community garden. The organization has dreams of a co-housing village for single mothers, where amenities like a cafeteria and on-site laundry would ease some of their daily burden.

More pressing at the moment, though, is meeting or exceeding the $10,000 goal for the holiday drive. Fund-raising for the drive ends on Monday.

If you decide to nudge them a little closer, just visit their website at A pop-up box will bring you right to the donation page.

Wooten, who earned her degree from OSU on Mother’s Day, now is enrolled in graduate school. But she always makes some time to help out at Motherful and takes her two children, ages 7 and 10, along.

She’s busy, of course, but volunteering with the group is a form of self-care, she said.

“I pour myself into it, and I’m modeling how positively it is affecting me and my children. We’re filling that cup up a little bit.

“They’ve also been able to observe and see me volunteering, so it’s having a generational effect.”

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