MUSKEGON, Mich. — A group of Muskegon parents are working to make life better for other families, and tomorrow they're donating their efforts to A Day of Community Giving.
The organization is called United Parents, which perfectly describes their mission. Executive Director Stephanie Harmon says they are a group of single parents, providing support to other single parents, in an effort to uplift their community.
"Well, I am single parent, myself. I was raised by a single parent and I have a lot of friends in the community that are also single parents," she said. "I was blessed to be put in the position to put something like this together. And, talking with other parents in the community, because I was a caseworker, and seeing their needs, I was like, 'We have to do this. This is a must.'"
She says the group provides a variety of services, which currently includes giving away clothing and personal items through its Hygiene Pantry and Kids Closet. Harmon says the group also offers a barter program and holiday assistance for things like birthday parties and baby showers.
The executive director says United Parents also offers emotional and social support for parents, as well as financial assistance with things like food, gas and utilities.
"If you need a little extra money to get you from paycheck to paycheck, and things like that," says Harmon. "And, any services that we don't offer, we will do a referral to other organizations in the community."
Right now, United Parents is working on rolling out its African American mentorship program. Harmon says Saturday's Day of Community Giving is also meant to introduce that program to the community.
"The goal of the mentorship program is to provide education that kids can't get in school. So, we're talking about entrepreneurship, mental health, physical health, love, relationships, healthy growth, healthy relationships, meditation, self-love and self-care. Just all the things that you really can't get out of the school book. We want our kids to be prepared for life after high school," she says.
"Children need to be able to have that outside love and outside care so they just know that if anything goes wrong, they have somewhere to go. It is so important for healthy growth for children to know that there's somebody out there that loves and care about them. And, if they have nobody, they have us."
The United Parents Day of Community Giving is happening Saturday, May 8 at Muskegon's Marsh Field, which is located at 1800 Peck Street. It begins at 12 p.m. Parents can sign children up for the mentoring program while there. Harmon says they will also be giving away clothes and holding a small community barbecue.
"We're hoping for about 20 girls and 20 guys to start off with. Once we hit that goal, I want to bring in more mentors to accommodate more children," says Harmon. "We currently need two more female mentors. We also will always accept donations, of any source, for our Hygiene Closet and Kids Closet, and financial assistance. We're currently in need of a space in downtown Muskegon, if anybody has the space available for us to use for our mentorship program."
Right now, United Parents serves families along the west shore, primarily in Muskegon County. Harmon says she hopes to expand in the future.
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