Ever since she started The Warford Foundation in 2009, Parthenia Warford has been a friend and confidante to young, single mothers who don’t have anyone else — giving relationship advice to some, arranging legal help for others and helping a few pay their bills.
In June, the Clinton resident will take this work one step further as she launches the Beauty Brains Belief Mentoring Program, complete with career planning, financial education and life skills classes.
“When people think of single moms, it’s always such a negative connotation,” Warford said. “I wanted [beauty, brains and belief] to be the representation of a single mother.”
A former teen mother who raised two daughters on her own while serving for 20 years in the U.S. Army, Warford said she started the Warford Foundation to help military widows and single mothers navigate personal, legal and career difficulties.
“If you haven’t been there, you don’t understand,” Warford said. “You’re trying to be everything for everybody, but who’s being there for you?”
Warford said many of the women she meets just need someone who will listen to them. So far she said she has been mentoring about seven women she met through social media and word of mouth — most of them military widows who lost their husbands in Iraq — who are scattered throughout the U.S. and often get in touch online or by phone to ask for advice.
Warford said she helps some deal with depression or find a way out of bad relationships and all of them know they can count on her for financial support.
“If they need money, they’re falling short on a bill, I’ll send them a couple hundred dollars,” Warford said. “They just know I’m like a surrogate mom.”
Warford, who also started a program through the Warford Foundation to help single mothers pay for nursing school textbooks, said the mentoring program was something she had been thinking about since she founded the organization. She said Beauty Brains Belief, which will enroll 20 women, will include monthly classes on topics such as healthy cooking, budgeting, applying for financial aid and dressing for job interviews.
Residents of Shepherd’s Cove Homeless Shelter in Capitol Heights, where most classes will be held, have already expressed an interest in participating.
“I think the educational component of it all is really what helps,” said Gwendolyn Ferguson, president and CEO of United Communities Against Poverty, a nonprofit that manages the women and children’s shelter. “Some of [the women] have not really learned how to manage their money.”
Women who are interested in the mentoring program will learn more Saturday at Andrews Air Force Base, when Warford will host the Beauty Brains Belief Mentoring Conference for 25 single mothers who registered to attend. Presentations will focus on career development, higher education, dating issues and self image.
Sandy Dimitrov, 46, a single mother in Omaha, Neb., said Warford, who she met through social media, reached out to her and sent her money to pay for a hotel room when she was homeless and had given up hope. She said Warford keeps inspiring her to think positively and be a source of strength for others.
“She’s helped me keep my head up and she’s helped me keep going.” Dimitrov said.
Warford said the idea behind the mentoring program and the conference is to empower women.
“We want them to use their brains and enrich them and to believe, believe in themselves,” she said.