DALLAS TWP. – Katherine Pohlidal has the best kind of problem.
The director of Misericordia University’s Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children program may have to begin searching for a larger event room, as the third annual Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch sold-out Sunday, with 200 guests filling the Alden Trust Room inside the school’s Insalalco Hall.
The program is one of only eight in the country that assists low-income single mothers by offering them and their children housing and other resources while they work to earn a degree. What started as an idea by Sister Jean Messaros in 2000 to aid struggling mothers in a single house has transformed into a flourishing program for 16 families across three houses on campus, garnering 29 graduates since its implementation with a whopping 100 percent success rate.
“We’re not just housing – we’re a whole program,” Pohlidal said, explaining the program provides everything from free housing and books to extracurricular activities and swimming lessons. “So we center our attention on the growth and development of the mother and the children.”
As guests gathered around tables full of floral centerpieces and pastel linens while indulging on delectable Mother’s Day chocolates and more, Ashley Peachy reflected on her time in the program and what she has learned, deeming the event “bittersweet.”
Peachy graduated with a master’s degree in speech language pathology Saturday, making her one of two women to graduate out of the program this year. With a job interview already lined up, Peachy said her life today is a far cry from when she first began in the Women with Children program.
Arriving to the Back Mountain and Misericordia years prior, she made a six-day drive from Idaho with her daughter to become a participant in the program. Struggling to make ends meet, Peachy was looking for ways to better her life when she stumbled upon the program online.
“So much has changed. I think I’ve just grown as a woman and as a person. I’m more comfortable in my own skin with who I am and what I have to offer professionally and personally,” she said.
As Peachy is preparing to make the transition away from the Women with Children program, she may be able to seek advice from its first graduate.
Joining in the fundraiser brunch, Wilkes-Barre resident and original program graduate Judith DeLuca spoke to the crowd about what the program did for her, and the opportunities that came her way after graduating in 2002.
“I came from five generations of non-educated individuals,” DeLuca told the crowd. “And I learned at a very early age that education is power, knowledge is what will get you out of poverty and it is the only thing that will rise you above the level of poverty.”
Today, DeLuca is a social worker with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Her daughter, who was 9 years old at the time she graduated, is now 24 with a degree in bio-environmental engineering and serves as a staff sergeant with the U.S. Air Force.
A silent auction and basket raffle were held in conjunction with the event, which acts as a major fundraiser for the program. Proceeds from the event go into an endowment that aids all women of the program.
In addition to the Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch, the Misericordia University class of 2018 presented at their commencement ceremony Saturday an endowed scholarship of over $7,000 to aid the program.
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