History of Moms and Mentors Society
The story of Moms and Mentors is about young moms, together with experienced moms and a former public health nurse, who developed a volunteer, social support network for young families. It started in 1995 at Belmont Secondary School by Maureen Hobbs working as a public health nurse with young moms attending a parenting class, which she developed as an accredited course, and taught at the school. Gradually, it ‘stepped outside’ of the school and public health agency and into a grass roots, community social support network. It was a seamless transition into the community as the Sooke School Board allowed the moms and volunteer mentors to meet in a portable classroom on the grounds of the school. Over the years, Moms and Mentors have met in several different locations and finally found a permanent home in 2013 with the Pacific Centre Family Serving Agency in Colwood, B.C.
For the past 20 years, bringing moms and mentors together as a group has been an empowering experience for those involved in building social connections with others. By showing interest and that somebody cares, mentors have facilitated social support circles, engaged in mentorship and positive parenting practices and advocated for educational and career opportunities through scholarships. This has helped in ‘turning the tide’ from a trajectory of social isolation and poverty, to creating opportunities for young families.
The realities faced by young moms is clarified by listening to their stories and challenges related to unexpected and early parenting, and working towards what is important to them, and for healthy outcomes. For example, early on young moms identified a lack of affordable and accessible day care was a barrier preventing many from completing their schooling. Moms and Mentors lobbied for on onsite day care. Working with several young moms, they collaborated with the Sooke School Board, key representatives from Belmont school, counsellors, and political leaders, the Catholic Church and Knights of Columbus, and eventually opened the Belmont day care in 1993. It was later named REACH day care, and continues to operate to this day.
Belmont Day Care Program
Moms and Mentors pursued scholarship funding for young moms graduating from Belmont. Working with Don Andrews, and with the generous support from the Knights of Columbus Catholic Church, and with Bob Battles and representatives from the St. Mathias Church, a scholarship program was initially set up in 1996. Moms and Mentors Scholarship programs continues to this day with generous support of service clubs, including Colwood and West Shore Rotary, the Lions, PEP, Beta Sigma Phi and individual donations.
How the Mentors Came to Be:
Pat Andrews was one of the first mentor volunteers. She introduced herself to Maureen stating, “I am the daughter of a single mom and I know what it’s all about. I know about the work you do with young moms and I want to help. I’d like to become a mentor.”
Pat Andrews, Volunteer Mentor
Pat demonstrated compassion and caring, the importance of listening and validating the concerns of others. As she became known, “Crafty Pat” was a tremendous support and role model for over a decade with young moms. She hosted special events including a picnic dinner at her house, and shared her love for crafting ie. teaching crafts to moms, and sharing ideas about free, friendly, and fun activities to do with kids. In recognition to Pat, who is now deceased, Moms and Mentors gives credit to Pat for appreciating the importance of authenticity in mom and mentor relationships.
Another volunteer mentor, Lenora Marcellus also enjoyed spending time with young moms. They appreciated knowing Lenora, as they watched her with her children and learnt about early parenting and how to interact with kids. Lenora, continues to volunteer as a member of our Scholarship Committee, and assists in the selection of applicants for scholarship support. Lenora is also a member of the Mentor Training Committee, and facilitates workshops on topics pertaining to women’ health, pregnancy, and safe babies.
Acknowledgements & Bouquets of Thanks from Moms & Mentors Society
Moms and Mentors gratefully acknowledge the Sooke School District #62 and Donna Miller, Principal of the West Shore Centre for Learning and Training for their tremendous support towards the initial development and success of our program. Providing a space at Royal Roads for Moms & Mentors allowed participants to enjoy a comfortable meeting place for Circle discussion groups, as well as access to a kitchen for meal preparation and a classroom/lab for computer sessions. It was a multifunctional centre for learning about parenting, child care and sharing life experiences. It was also an ‘encouraging environment’ for promoting educational and vocational advancement for all.
Moms and Mentors also gratefully acknowledge the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education and Human Resources Development Canada National Literacy Secretariat for their financial support, enabling us to promote literacy and community health through the development of a resource library for parents, a children’s library and access to ongoing computer training. Further, by promoting our activities on our website, as well as through a photo-documentary, a cookbook, a parenting handbook and a community conferences. Moms & Mentors have also been successful in promoting expansion of this type of social support network to other communities, including the Single Parent Resource Centre in Victoria.
Moms and Mentors acknowledges the generous donations received from the church and service clubs towards scholarships for post secondary training and education. Initially funding was received from the Catholic Church, Knights of Columbus, the St. Mathias Church, Project Upgrade. Over the years, several service clubs including the Lions, Rotary, Beta Sigma Phi, and PEO have continued to support Moms and Mentors scholarship program.