RICHMOND, Va. -- For the past two years, United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg has helped single mothers in the area with childcare costs as they further their education and are accepting applications for the 2023 scholarship.
Applications for this year are due by May 31.
Director Sammie McCabe said they decided to launch the WomenRise program after the issue of childcare was highlighted during the pandemic.
"[Childcare] can be upwards of $1,000 per month, which can be tricky for any family, but especially a single-parent family," said McCabe. "We decided to focus on single moms with this program, specifically knowing that they experienced poverty more so than any other type of family unit."
About 30% of single moms in the Richmond region are living below the poverty line, McCade said.
The Commonwealth Institute reported that Virginia is the 10th most expensive state in the U.S. when it comes to childcare costs.
The program pays for childcare for a recipient's children while they pursue their educational goals.
"Because we know that education is that next step, to be able to have a better-earning potential to be able to better take care of yourself and your children," McCabe said.
In the first year, the program awarded six scholarships and gave out 23 last year (totaling $185,000).
They hope to award 20 this year.
"Everybody understands how challenging it can be, whether it's a corporate donor, an individual, a foundation, there's just a lot of support and understanding behind this program and that's why we've been able to see it grow," said McCabe.
Holly Duncan was among the 2022 recipients. She had the childcare costs covered for her two sons, Aaron, 11, and Addison, seven, as she finished up her schooling to become a funeral director.
She has completed her internship and graduated from Brightpoint Community College.
"When I pass my national boards and my state boards, I'll become a licensed funeral director," Duncan said. "I knew that this was the path for me. So, whenever I was able to go to school, I chose this career and I haven't looked back and I absolutely love it."
"The WomenRise scholarship really took a big chunk of my stress and anxiety off the plate without having to worry about where that childcare payment was going to come from," she added. "So, it was really nice to be able to receive that scholarship so I could use the funds that I would have used for childcare to take my kids to do activities and do things that we really enjoyed together, to spend quality time together."
Duncan offered this encouragement to any mom looking to take the next step:
"You can do it. Just put your mind to it. It's hard work. It is very, very hard work. But, if you can just push through you can make a better life for yourself and for your children. It's definitely worth it."
To apply, applicants must:
- Be a single female head of household with custody of at least one child
- Be enrolled or have plans to enroll in an education or career training program that is at least 40 hours and that results in a degree or credential
- Have an annual income of $60,000 or less
- Reside in the United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg region (Charles City, Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Petersburg, Powhatan, Richmond)
- Use a licensed or voluntary registered childcare provider
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