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Quick to the rescue of moms

More than a decade after Debbie Quick founded Single Mothers Outreach she creates SCV Single Mothers

Posted: February 7, 2009 11:04 p.m.
Updated: February 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Debbie Quick, right, of Santa Clarita Valley Single Mothers receives a hug from Juanita Ramirez, a local single mother whom she has been helping for seven years. The current economy finds many single mothers in need of help.

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Her car had broken down and with it, temporarily, her spirit. It was 1994 and Debbie Quick was a 41-year old, recently divorced mom with two sons. When her vintage Mercedes needed expensive repairs, the situation forced Quick to trade down to a Ford Tempo. It also made her think.

"I couldn't have been the only woman going through this, struggling with bills and child care, with no one to roll over in bed and talk to about it," Quick said.

She placed an ad - a plea to single mothers that needed support to contact her to discuss their struggles. In the first week, there were eight phone calls - then 40. Within months, more than 250 single, divorced, widowed and never-married moms had contacted Quick.

The first Single Mothers Outreach meeting was held in Quick's living room in 1995. In the next 12 years, the nonprofit organization helped thousands of women with financial assistance, food, furniture, clothing, legal and professional advice, and perhaps most importantly, empathy, during monthly support groups.

"It's a challenge to play both mom and dad. When you're sick, it's too bad, you have no help. You still have to get up and take the kids to school," Quick said. "It helps to have someone to talk to who understands."

Starting over
The former executive director of Single Mothers Outreach left the organization she created in 2007. Quick is starting over with a new organization - SCV Single Mothers, a grassroots nonprofit organization. The board of directors includes Stacey Henderson, Hank Marchetti, Darlene Garcia and attorney Shanley Curran - advisory board members are Kathy Sorcini and Erin Kranz.

Once again, Quick's living room is a comfort zone, her phone a lifeline to those in need. Her garage is stuffed with furniture, food, clothes and décor, all awaiting their next home. "I'm like Sanford and Son," Quick said, with a laugh.

Donations of cash and goods come from local businesspeople, churches, neighbors and friends.

"I'll have a yard sale and people will come over and ask, ‘Do you need this for anyone?'" Quick said.

The inaugural SCV Single Mothers Christmas party attracted 50 single mothers and their children. Private donations and board members paid for food, Santa donated his time, Girl Scouts decorated the clubhouse and Cub Scouts provided family memory gift bags with a photo frame for attendees, who were given photos with Santa at the end of the event.

"It was done on a nickel, but it was a nice little warm, fuzzy way for moms to get together and for some of these kids, it was all they had for Christmas," Quick said.

At a recent social event, Quick met a generous benefactor who had anonymously donated $10,000 to the organization. As they shook hands, the man clasped a second hand on top of Quick's and blessed her for her work on behalf of single mothers.

Clients that were once helped by Single Mothers Outreach are also reaching back to give what they can, such as a nurse who recently donated $500 to SCV Single Mothers.

These moments touch Quick. "I think people want to be a part of something that helps others, something that's bigger than themselves," she said.

Single moms in crisis
Though SCV Single Mothers is in its infancy, the calls are already pouring in. One mom needs $250 to pay off car registration and insurance. Another, a victim of domestic violence who fled her partner with a two-year old baby and a newborn in tow, needs furniture, food, clothing, a car seat and a larger place to live.
Qualifying criteria is simple (you have to have a child or be a guardian to a child), as is the mission (provide immediate help to single moms).

Most woman requesting assistance, Quick acknowledged, are low-income. Clients range in age from a 15-year-old girl who just had a baby to mothers in their 40s. A high percentage are divorced or going through a divorce. Some have up to seven children. There are also the occasional grandparents, who become guardians when the child's parents go to jail or have drug and alcohol issues.

Needs are identified by talking to clients directly. Currently, the top three needs for single moms generally include rent subsidies and housing, utilities and diapers/baby formula.

The current economic crisis has affected single moms severely, said Quick.

"When there's two parents in the household, one can go out and get a second job. With just one parent, it's not as easy. You can get a second job, but then you have to pay for childcare, which usually makes it a wash," Quick said. "That's for those lucky enough to have jobs. We have one mom who moved out here from Lancaster to live with her niece. She's a housekeeper that went from cleaning four houses a week to one house a week."

During her own hard times, Quick, a manicurist by trade, made ends meet by teaching classes on how to feed a family of four on $30 a week. "Now it would be more like $40, but it still could be done," Quick said.

Bridging the gap
Quick believes in the "teach a man to fish" school of philanthropy. SCV Single Mothers was created as a way to help bridge the gap when mothers hit a difficult period.

A case in point - $2,000 for car insurance needed by a 23-year old guardian of three siblings who lost their parents. Once the insurance issue was paid for and resolved, the guardian was able to continue working, eventually even saving for college funds for her younger siblings.

"All they needed was a boost to get through it," Quick said.

In addition to financial assistance, monthly support groups will commence soon, providing a supportive atmosphere for single moms to communicate their unique problems. For those with possible clinical needs, SCV Single Mothers offers resources for professional help.

Quick, whose sons Tory and Brandon are now 37 and 27 respectively, remembers when she needed the outlet. "I was a wreck emotionally, and when mom's a wreck, the kids can sense it," she said.

They can also sense when mom's doing something right, such as the time when Quick and Tory made deliveries of high-quality donated cheese to single mothers who needed food most.

"Tory grabbed my hand and said to me, ‘Don't you feel like an elf helping people?' Quick said.

That sense of compassion and awareness of those suffering around them could be what shaped some of our most prominent politicians today, as Quick pointed out.

"(Los Angeles) Mayor (Antonio) Villaraigosa and President (Barack) Obama were both raised by hard-working single mothers who made many sacrifices to provide for their children," she said.

I'll never stop
Recognized as an "Unsung Hero" on NBC Nightly News in 2000 and now semi-retired, Quick finds it impossible to walk away from the women with whom she continues to identify.

Scenarios like a mom with a 15-year-old who is also taking care of a 5-year-old grandson, break her heart.

The woman's teeth were cracked and broken from a domestic violence attack, yet she interacted with her family as if nothing were wrong. Quick is gearing up resources to assist with dental work.

"How do you say ‘I'm not going to help people?' These are human beings. I have had these problems, and many of these women have it even worse," Quick said.

Brought up by a single mom who told her, "I wish this was around when I was raising kids," Quick pulls funds from her own retirement account and cuts corners in her personal budget whenever necessary to continue with her mission.

"I'll never stop. My kids are gone - I can sacrifice my time, a batch of spaghetti, or whatever else I can to make a difference for those that are still struggling."

For more information on SCV Single Mothers, call (661) 251-1515 or e-mail smodq@hotmail.com.

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