Single mothers provide mutual support at weekly meetings

Single mothers in Elmira have found friendship, resources and encouragement from Woolwich Community Services’ Single Moms Group. Now they’re reaching out to the community, hoping to welcome new faces.

The group meets once a week with their children at Kids and I Resource Centre to chat and hang out while the children get to play with a huge selection of toys and games.

Some women come every week, while others come in from time to time when their schedule permits. Sisters Kaitlyn and Krystal Cormier are two of the regulars, along with daughters Avery and Taelyn.

“I’ve met a lot of friends through here. It’s weird how we were in the same community, but yet we didn’t know that any of them existed,” Kaitlyn said.

The group is open to single mothers from all walks of life. You don’t have to be using Woolwich Community Services to participate in the group.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to think that, ‘oh it’s just for people that are on welfare.’ It would be nice for people to know there are literally people coming here who are nurses,” Kaitlyn said.

It’s a place to come relax and be with people who have the same shared experiences.

But it also is a place of support for those who need it.

“It opens up a whole door of resources. Kelly can tell you things that you didn’t even know were available,” Kaitlyn said.

The group was formed in early 2013. Before that, Krystal had been at WCS speaking with Kelly Christie about the struggles she was facing as a newly single mom. At the time, she felt like she had no support and was alone. It was around this time that volunteer Jane Weber came to Christie wanting to do something to help single moms in the area.

“The reason I talked to Kelly originally was I knew of somebody who would have benefited from a group like this and I asked her if one existed and that’s kind of how it happened,” Weber said.

Christie had noticed through WCS’ other services that there were a lot of single moms in the area and was looking for a way to connect them when Weber came in also looking to help.

“I saw a need just through the programs that we run, that there seemed to be a fair number of single moms. And I didn’t know if they were connected or not. Jane literally walked into the office one day and said ‘I’d really like to do something with single moms,’” Christie said.

Just through listening to the women each week and hearing their concerns and questions, Christie and the volunteers have been able to tailor the weekly get-togethers to address those concerns.

They’ve had guest speakers come in from the Woolwich Counselling Centre and Waterloo Regional Police Services.

“There are different concerns when you’re raising your children on your own, that you don’t have that second person to rely on,” Christie said.

Christie’s been encouraged by watching friendships develop. The moms now help each other with childcare and have friends to call to meet for play dates at the park.

Women from Bloomingdale Mennonite Church make dinner for the group once a month.

“They don’t just make the food and bring it, they join us. They’ve become friends too. It’s been really neat to get to know them,” said volunteer Jan Martin.

The Cormier sisters have come a long way since they first started coming to the group. They’ve both gone back to school and are almost finished their education, Kaitlyn in medical office administration and Krystal in community service work. They found out about the opportunities to go back to school through Second Career because of conversations had at the Single Moms Group.

“Honestly I never would have even had the encouragement to go back to school if I wasn’t here having the volunteers and friends root me on,” Krystal said.

They both have become more involved with WCS too in the process. They’ve helped with gift wrapping for the Christmas hamper program and plan to do so again, as their way of giving back to the organization.

“It definitely gets you more into the community and feeling more confident with being a young parent. When I first had Avery I had nobody. My friends didn’t have kids yet,” Kaitlyn said.

This summer they all went to Canada’s Wonderland together. They’ve also done picnics as well as taken cooking classes and learned to make jam with a volunteer at Trinity United Church.

“We’ve even brought some of our friends for a one-time occasion and every single one of them has said I wish they had this in the city,” Krystal said.

Christie recommends interested single moms call the WCS office before popping in the first time just in case the group is meeting somewhere else or not meeting that night.

WCS’ Single Moms Group meets every Tuesday night from 6-7:30 p.m. at Kids and I Resource Centre in the Birdland Plaza in Elmira.

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