MARTINSBURG – Jill Bevins, the area director of YoungLives since 2010, often describes what a difference positive support from family made in her own life after she became a mom at 17.
She and her boyfriend later married and today are raising their son and twin daughters in a happy home.
With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, the Spirit of Jefferson asked Bevins to share some of the important work being done through this Eastern Panhandle ministry for teen moms.
In her own words:
Berkeley County had the second-highest teen pregnancy rate in the state of West Virginia between 2000 and 2008, according to the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.
As a former teen mom, it was important to me to reach out to these young moms to help them reach their full potential. My first club meeting had two teen moms in attendance but by May, there were 15 girls at the monthly club meetings.
YoungLives was granted permission to work with young moms in the Berkeley County school system monthly.
Now held twice a month, the club meetings are a time where teen moms can come for support, education and mentoring. Life skills including how to create a budget, decision making, conflict resolution and more are taught during the meetings.
Club is also fun. YoungLives takes pride in remembering that teen moms are still teens and so there is a period of games, skits and just plain silliness at each club meeting.
The girls also get together for scrapbooking, flower arranging and other activities as well. There is childcare and transportation provided to club meetings to take away any potential obstacles that could prevent girls from attending.
In addition, YoungLives provides a hot meal for the moms and their babies. For some of the girls, it is the only meal they may have that day.
YoungLives seeks to partner each teen mom with a Christian mentor, a woman who comes into their lives and situation to love them unconditionally and provide support and advice.
Mentors have helped girls enroll in college, finish their GED classes, accompanied young moms to doctor appointments and helped them access needed resources.
Over the summer of 2011 it became apparent that a Jefferson County needed a YoungLives, too. There were about 10 girls from Jefferson County coming to the club meetings in Martinsburg and it was increasingly hard to arrange transportation and assign mentors to those moms.
Michelle Price, a resident of Harpers Ferry, felt led to start YoungLives in Jefferson County. She officially kicked off that group in August nine months ago.
Both local divisions of YoungLives work with girls in the school systems as well as teen moms referred from other agencies such as DHHR, WIC and Birth to Three. Between Martinsburg and Jefferson County, YoungLives is making a difference for more than 125 local teenage moms and their kids.
In just two short years, YoungLives in the Eastern Panhandle has grown by leaps and bounds, and this growth is typical for YoungLives nationally. The ministry, a part of a larger youth organization called Young Life, has grown 426 percent since 2006.
The work of YoungLives can’t be done by one person, two people or even 10. YoungLives needs people willing to give of their time and resources to come alongside these young moms and let them know they are not alone.
Both Martinsburg and Jefferson County are in need of volunteers. Mentors contribute 4 to 5 hours monthly while childcare providers offer 1 to 2 hours a month. Those who can contribute financially are asked to give $32 a month.
There is a special satisfaction knowing that these girls are being loved, accepted and shown that they have a bright future ahead of them despite the circumstance they are in.
— To get more information on YoungLives, call Jill Bevins at 304-919-1681 or email her at email@example.com.