During the holiday season, we see an increase in generosity. From choosing a tag off the Salvation Army Angel Tree to making a Toys for Tots donation, many people are in the spirit to give to those in need. But that’s a mindset we can keep throughout the year. Noelle LeVeaux—Plano single mom, breast cancer survivor and mompreneur extraordinaire—spearheads an organization that does just that. The local chapter of Helping Hands for Single Moms removes everyday obstacles that single mothers face while pursuing higher education. The organization does everything from providing stipends for bills or child care to offering tech support—all to end generational poverty, one single mom at a time.
What brought you to Helping Hands? I’ve always been super passionate about women. I mean, so goes the woman, so goes the family. I just really believe that. And cancer will change your life. So, ever since that, I’ve kind of readjusted my life. I just believe that God kept me around for more than just my family. So, it was probably toward the end of last year I started looking for a place to volunteer, and Helping Hands for Single Moms came up. Then, they were looking for an executive director. I was like, “Um…?”
That’s not just volunteering. Yeah, I was like, “I don’t know about that.” It was just getting started here, and more than anything I really wanted the organization to get a good start in the Dallas market. I have a lot of good relationships, people I’ve known for a long time, and I’ve started an organization here before. I felt like, if nothing else, I’d be the best person maybe to start it.
What’s the goal of Helping Hands? What we’re trying to do is break a cycle. Education actually breaks the [poverty] cycle that [the women we help] grew up in, that their moms grew up in—that they don’t want for their kids. If you look at the bigger number in regard to poverty, not only across our nation but specifically here in Dallas, it’s a little overwhelming—almost 50% of those households are led by a single mom. They’re a strategic audience to really focus on.
How does the program work? The [moms] have to already be enrolled in school and been in school for at least a semester. We’re not trying to convince someone to go to school. We’re basically saying, “Way to go. Congratulations for deciding to make this sacrifice, and we’re going to come alongside you.” [The women are] primarily in Dallas and Collin County, but I’ll get calls from moms at UNT or even out in Tarrant. I say if you can make our meetings every other month, we’re happy to have you. We provide a monthly, unrestricted stipend. The first year it’s $200; second year it’s $300. It’s unrestricted because they have child care, some of them use it for school, some it’s just an additional asset to pay bills. They all live within 150% of the poverty line, [and] many of our moms are in full-time nursing school. They can’t work while they’re doing that because the programs are so intense.
Does a $200 or $300 stipend really help? For some people $200 a month doesn’t sound like a lot, but studies have shown that if you increase an impoverished home’s income by about $300 a month, that increases the children’s future income by about 17%. It’s the little things. … It’s the difference between the lights being on or not.
And those are commodities we take for granted so easily. Very, very easily. For me, it’s about closing that gap between the haves and the have-nots. I think that if more people on the “have” side realize there are ways to invest that can actually help pull some of the have-nots out of that category, I think they’d be willing to invest. We don’t call it a handout; we call it a hand up, because they’re really helping themselves by getting an education.
That can completely change the trajectory of their lives. Of course. They’re setting an exceptional example for their kids, because [then] there’s not even a question whether their kids go to college or not. What I’ve come to learn as I’ve been doing this is that many [programs in Dallas] treat the symptoms of poverty. And the truth is that 85% of [children] that live in poverty will live as adults in poverty. So, it’s great that we’re sending a backpack home with food on a Friday for these kids, but I’m telling you, 85% of them you’ll do the same thing for their kids, and that’s what we’re trying to stop.
So, we’re nearing the holidays. Do you do anything extra during the holiday season for these moms? We have a program called Holiday Happiness where you can adopt our single-mom families. I want them to be able to do something nice for their kids [and] I would like to do something nice for them. So we’re looking to maybe get a jewelry sponsor that would give them a pendant, or just something that reminds them that they’re special and that they matter. I’m a single mom, I’ve been a single mom for a long time. Luckily, I have great support from my mom, my family, my friends, my ex-husband … but not everybody has that. I know how hard our moms are working; I just really want to do something nice for them for the holiday.
How does Holiday Happiness work? When you adopt a family, [donors] come to the event, bring the gifts and they get to meet mom, and mom and the donors wrap the gifts together. A lot of times when we give, or we donate, we never meet the recipient. I think that’s a really unique experience to be able to meet the mom. We hope that relationships with some corporations will be established, and they’ll really understand that there’s a person behind this who is fighting for her life and her children.
Lend a Hand (Or a Dollar)
“The majority of all not-for-profits receive their money from individual donors,” LeVeaux says. “So, if you know a single mom, if you’ve been touched by a single mom, if you are a single mom, give to our organization because you know that you’re helping someone who’s doing their very best.”
To donate, visit helpinghandsforsinglemoms.org/dallas/donate.
Image courtesy of Helping Hands for Single Moms.