Okay, I’m looking for input, thoughts and opinions here. I need to give some form, structure, whatever – and a name – to what I do. Let me start by explaining what my life looks like, and hopefully you’ll get an idea of what it is I’m groping for.
First of all, I am a single mom. I have two children of my own, ages 15 and 20. I also have a 20-year-old foster son who still lives at home, as I am putting him through college. Beyond the presence of myself and my two biological children, the makeup of my household has always been rather “fluid”. I’ve always had a heart for teenagers and young people who don’t have solid and supportive families, and I often take them in when they need a stable home. My foster son, having been with us for almost four years now, has been in our home the longest. Over the years, however, I have had plenty of what I call my “strays” (they know I mean this term lovingly). My “strays” are kids or young people who may or may not have lived with us (most have for some period of time), and for whom I fill sort of a “mom” role, but with whom I’ve never had a legal or biological connection. My foster son is the only “stray” who ever became mine in a legal sense.
I have taken countless young people into my home for varying periods of time, from just overnight to months to years. Prior to my foster son, for example, I had a young lady who lived with us from just before her 18th birthday up until she was almost 21. As a matter of fact, as with most of the “strays” that I have bonded particularly well with, she is still a part of our everyday life – part of the family. She’s here for holidays and birthdays and family get-togethers, she’s here sometimes to do laundry or borrow the car, and she’s someone I can call on when I need help with something or can’t hang a picture straight on the wall. :)
You get the idea.
Anyway, there have been many in our home. Some remain part of the family, some do not. There are also those who have never lived with us, but for whom I’ve tried to be a source of support to the extent that I am able. There is one very young single mother, for example, that I have been working with for about six months now. I’d be happy to have her live with us, but I simply don’t have the room or the proper environment (too many college kids, too many dogs) for small children. You can read about her here: http://www.thoughts.com/salmagundi/blog/keeping-the-lifeboat -afloat-562201/
When I am not directly busy with one of my kids or one of my strays, there are other things I do to try and help out the needy, homeless or neglected youth of my community. Some of the activities that I spend most of my days doing include the following:
• I solicit, gather and deliver items (clothing, shoes, backpacks, toiletries, etc.) for Tumbleweed Center For Youth Development (www.tumbleweed.org), where I’m on a first-name basis with many of the social workers and the “higher-ups”. • I maintain a list of resources for youth who are homeless or troubled, and I post this list regularly on my local Craigslist site. The list includes my e-mail for those who might need some individual advice, so I also field those e-mails when they come in. • I serve as a board member for a local charter school district. I’m not always popular there since I tend to stick up for the more “difficult” students. However, it’s me they often call for advice or input when they have a student in a “situation”. • My kids and I occasionally work on “special projects”, such as making and handing out sack lunches, or “doing Christmas” for youth who don’t otherwise have a place to spend the holiday (you can also read about that on my blog, which I linked to above). • Etc., etc., etc. – i.e. whatever I can do.
As you can imagine, all of this can get fairly expensive. When the costs aren’t direct and obvious ones, there are the costs associated with time away from work, gas for running around, etc. I’m just a single mom who works as a church cleaning lady, and although more hours and possibly other opportunities for work might be available to me, I have too much on my plate already and I have to keep my schedule flexible if I’m to continue doing what I do. The kids are my first priority. I make up for the expense of it all by supplementing my income with what basically amounts to a forever-ongoing yard sale (selling on Craigslist and my booth on Bonanzle) that is stocked by items that are either donated by friends and family who are supportive of my “cause” or items purchased at yard sales. I also keep my personal expenses very low. I can pinch Abe Lincoln right off a penny, my friends say. Ha ha! I clip coupons, I pick up most of our household items at garage sales, I don’t have luxury items like a cell phone or a pretty car, and I don’t wear anything that costs more than a dollar. For real, that’s true! LOL!
So, that’s my life. In a nutshell. Now, back to my original question/issue:
I feel like if “what I do” had some sort of a name attached to it, I would be able to do more. I’d like to possibly get a few other moms (perhaps empty-nesters with currently untapped mom skills and free time?) to perhaps meet with me regularly and help out with some of this stuff. I’d like to be able to solicit beyond my circle of friends and family for needed items. I’d like to set up a web site and/or a Facebook page to promote awareness of the issues of homeless and neglected youth, and to maybe publish a running “wish list” of items needed by Tumbleweed and House of Hope (another organization I believe in) and, frankly, to further promote my own online sales so that I can continue and possibly improve what I already do.
A name and some kind of at least loose organization, I think, would lend me a bit of credibility with which to ask for things. Social workers at Tumbleweed have told me from time to time that I should start a non-profit. I don’t think I want to do that, exactly, because the idea brings off-putting images to my mind. I do not want to be bogged down with paperwork and administration, and I don’t want my “strays” to become “clients”. My relationships with them are much more personal than that. Maybe my fears are ill-founded, though? If so, and if anyone reading has experience with this, I’m open to hearing your thoughts.
What I’ve really had in mind is something more like a “club” of sorts. A group where people meet regularly, and anyone can just jump in and help where it’s needed. But wouldn’t I have to register the name somewhere in order to legally own it? And surely the organization – in whatever form – would need to have at least some money to cover costs of activities, projects and whatnot? And, if so, would it not have to be set up as either a business or a non-profit? There come all my fears again…
And that, folks, is the issue that’s on my mind. I need to give “this” a form and a name, but I just don’t know what exactly it is I want or how to set it up and make it work. I don’t want to jump into something very formal and very structured. I basically just want to keep doing what I am already doing, but maybe with a little help from a few others, and with the credibility of a name. Can it be done? I am open to all thoughts, ideas, input and suggestions.