The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially devastating for one particular group: single moms.
Single mom Victoria Louis of Kingston has experienced these struggles first-hand. Louis works as a home health certified nursing assistant and she also is attending school to become a licensed practical nurse. At the same time, she helps her 10-year-old daughter with virtual learning while her school remains closed.
“It’s been pretty difficult,” Louis said. “At one point, babysitters were closed and there were times I would have to go to school and times I would have to do an exam. You try to reach out to other people but at the same time, you have to be careful about COVID.”
Louis, who also has a 20-year-old son, is thankful for the support she has received from an organization started by Wright Twp. resident Donna Nelson called the Adopt A Single Mom Project. Thanks to the organization, Louis is able to share her experiences with other single moms and she receives support as well as Christmas gifts.
“It’s empowering,” Louis said. “It’s a good way for us to meet and you know you’re not alone.”
Nelson started the project in 2017 after seeing the struggles of working single moms through her own experience as a working single mom. The organization provides in-person and virtual support and resources for single moms throughout the year as well as a gift drive for Christmas.
This year will mark the fourth year for the Adopt a Single Mom for Christmas initiative. Nelson said this year’s goal is to raise $20,000 to provide Christmas gifts to 200 working single moms in seven Northeast Pennsylvania counties, including Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. She and other volunteers fundraise for financial donations and shop locally at Boscov’s to choose gifts and deliver them during the week leading up to Christmas.
Since the pandemic began, she said the challenges for single moms are “beyond extraordinary and the unmet needs are alarming.”
Nelson said after her own experience as a working single mom of two boys, she understands their needs. Her sons were born 12 years apart with two different fathers, neither of whom were involved, she said. She worked full-time and took on side jobs for extra cash, went to school and parented. Her second son was born with many medical needs and was in and out of the hospital every couple months until he died at age 3.
“As a single mom not having a meaningful support system can leave you feeling isolated and lonely which, for plenty of single moms, leads to depression, anxiety and feeling alienated by your community which further exacerbates the financial instability,” Nelson said.
She said the Adopt a Single Mom initiative is important to help single moms and it is “really powerful to be part of a group of other women who ‘get it’ and on the same journey or have lived it and can help you navigate it better.”
She said she started the project because she saw a gap in support for single moms and the population of them is growing.
According to an Indicators report from The Institute, there are more than 9,700 single mom families with children under age 18 in Luzerne County and nearly 4,700 in Lackawanna County.
Even in pre-COVID times, Nelson said working single moms are historically under-resourced.
“There are no safety net programs for the working single parent,” she said.
Before the pandemic, she said more than 40% of single mom families were at risk for financial hardship due to lower wage earnings and no unpaid leave.
“Obviously, that financial hardship is now for the moms who are not able to work their primary job or had to cut hours or their second job to help make ends meet or to do the extras so they can meet the mandates of constantly shifting educational guidelines requiring them to be home with her children,” she said.
For more information about how to help single moms for Christmas and throughout the year, call 570-762-9913, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to adoptasinglemom.org. Donations may be made through the website or mailed to AASM c/o Donna Nelson, P.O. Box 338, Mountain Top, PA 18707. Checks may be made payable to Adopt a Single Mom Project.