May 10, 1999
Soaring Solo co-founder Heidi Dill (left) with Greg Wilkinson, owner of Woodinville's Miracle Carpet and Mattress, who has helped the program.
by Deborah Stone, features writer
Patrice is one of the twelve million single parents in the U.S. She has two children: Sara, eight, and Elizabeth, three. After her divorce following a ten-year marriage, she was faced with the challenge of making a new life for her daughters and herself.
"I was overwhelmed," Patrice said. "I wasn't sure where to start. I had no idea what kind of income I would need to support myself and my girls."
Patrice needed a place to live, a job that would enable her to provide for her family, good schools and daycare for her daughters, and help with financial planning. She was entering the work force after a long absence, and her money management skills were rusty, because during her marriage, her husband had taken care of the family finances.
Enter Soaring Solo, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free assistance to single parents needing help meeting the housing, transportation, medical care, education, childcare, and legal needs of their children.
Patrice was given one-on-one counseling to develop a long-term plan, outlining achievable goals focusing on job growth potential, financial stability, housing, childcare, and education. Then the agency tapped community resources to help Patrice implement the plan. After creating an up-to-date resumé for Patrice, job placement firms were contacted to assist in her job search.
Patrice is now working full-time with an insurance brokerage firm, which provides full benefits for her and her daughters. Soaring Solo also assisted Patrice in developing a monthly budget, locating affordable rental housing near her new place of employment, choosing the right childcare program, and securing a donated makeover and clothing gift certificate to prepare her for her re-entry into the work force.
"Soaring Solo helped me make a new life," Patrice said.
Incorporated last October, Soaring Solo is the brainchild of co-founder Cindy Ogden. Once a single parent herself, Ogden has firsthand knowledge of the difficulties faced by single parents. She understands the stress of trying to work two jobs to make ends meet and being a mother without the necessary financial and personal support.
"I felt my dignity was being challenged at every turn," recalls Ogden.
After several difficult years, Cindy was fortunate to create her own support system and begin slowly to develop her career. She moved up the corporate ladder to a directorship in a software company and eventually remarried, but throughout her experiences, she never lost sight of the desire to reach out to other single parents.
"I wanted to try and help single parents develop pride and maintain their dignity by being able to provide the means to meet the basic needs of their families," she said. Together with friend and co-worker Heidi Dill, Ogden's dream became a reality.
"We found we shared a desire to make a difference in people's lives," Dill commented.
The two women quit their jobs at Seattle Systems in February and began to work full-time for Soaring Solo. They have been busy with fundraising activities, grant writing, networking, and establishing their organization's identity and presence in the community.
The organization receives no federal monies, relying instead on the generosity of corporations and individuals. Recently, Soaring Solo acquired its first corporate partner, Advanced Communications Technology, Inc., and they hope to get other businesses on board in the near future.
"We want to market to businesses, and we've created a Corporate Business Services Program geared toward corporations looking to assist their single parent employees," Dill explained. "For an initial investment, Soaring Solo comes in to provide services for the company's single-parent employees. We can help find reliable childcare, transportation, and help with continued education. All these things can make a difference and lead to less employee turnover and loss of productivity."
The organization receives referrals from various agencies, family law attorneys, churches, counselors, and individuals in the community. Richard Wharf, Soaring Solo's social services manager, then screens applications and interviews candidates who meet the organization's criteria to determine if there is a good fit.
According to Dill, clients stay with Soaring Solo until they've accomplished the goals set forth in their Personal Achievement Plan. For some people, this may take six months; for others, it may be two years.
"It is very important that we help our clients build their self-esteem and learn to help themselves and their children," Dill said. "Soaring Solo is a help up, not a handout."
For more information about Soaring Solo, access their website at: www.soaringsolo.org.