They “don’t make you feel like you’re any less of a person,” says one mom
A little over a year ago, Kemaly Paulk was feeling hopeless.
The single mother was in-between jobs and had an electric bill she wasn’t able to pay. “Normally I don’t ask for help,” says Paulk, a 36-year-old who lives in Athens, GA. Still, wanting to keep the lights on for her two toddlers, she went into the Ark, a local charity that specializes in providing financial advice and assistance to help out-of-work individuals get back on their feet.
The Ark came through for that bill and once again shortly thereafter when Paulk needed help again. “You feel like you’ve failed when you need help, but they’re so humble and don’t make you feel like you’re any less of a person just because you come in,” she says. Paulk is now employed as a customer service agent for business services company Conduent, but that’s not the last she heard from the charity. This week, the Ark gave her a bouquet of flowers and a card in its bid to spread some early cheer among single moms this Mother’s Day.
“We have a lot of single, working mothers without anybody in their household to celebrate them,” says Stephanie Cockfield, the Ark’s financial education director, of the center’s “Adopt-a-Mom” program. For the fourth year in a row, the charity puts up a list of names on its website (last names aren’t shown) and solicits $25 donations for mothers who don’t necessarily have the chance to celebrate this Sunday. This year it posted 219 names, all of whom have been adopted by anonymous donors.
“They went the extra mile for Mother’s Daily and really made me feel special,” says Paulk.
The Ark found sponsors for the gifts, so the $8,000 they raised actually goes to funding other operations, which include grants for emergency medical expenses, low-interest payday loans and microcredit for those who want to start their own business. While some payday loans came come with interest rates as high as 300%, the Ark works with a credit union to offer its clients financing at 3% rates. As the Ark is deeply integrated into the local community and helps its clients in numerous ways, less than 4.5% of loanees—who have an average credit score of 550 or well into the “poor” range—default.
“Just by nature of what we do, low-income working folk are those who end up at our door most of the time,” says Cockfield. “We want to acknowledge them for Mother’s Day but also help them throughout the year.”
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