Marie Howard became a mother at 17 years old. After leaving an unhealthy relationship, Howard didn’t know what to do. There weren’t many resources for teen moms near her home in Portland, Ore.
But then she found YoungLife.
YoungLife is an international nonprofit organization that helps people, communities and children through different focuses. Best known for its faith-based youth camps, YoungLife also serves teen girls who are pregnant or already have children. Northlake YoungLives is the first in the region with that focus.
Northlake YoungLives provides support through one-on-one mentorship as well as a community of young moms that gathers regularly for home-cooked meals, fun and games, free childcare, and life skills nights that include resume writing, budgeting and cooking. For Howard, it was this kind of mentorship that helped her through her toughest times being a young mom.
“It completely shifted my life,” she said. “It gave me the community and support I needed.”
Howard remained close with YoungLife for several years through volunteering and supporting other young moms.
Since moving to Washington, Howard helped develop the Northlake YoungLives to serve teen moms on the Eastside. She serves as Northlake YoungLives Program Coordinator.
“I couldn’t imagine my life not being involved with YoungLife,” she said.
Howard and members of the YoungLives committee have been developing the group for about two years. Megan Hannah serves as the chair on the committee.
Hannah first met Howard through her sister, who was Howard’s OBGYN in Portland.
“God works in amazing ways,” Hannah said.
As the chair, Hannah serves as a guide to Howard and helps her form connections to local resources. “When I think of teen moms, I know that it’s a lonely life,” Hannah said. “What we want to do is create a community for these girls and guide them to learn and grow to be a mom and also a person.”
“We’re not just meeting their physical needs, but their emotional needs as well,” Howard said.
Howard said one misconception many people share on the Eastside is they believe there aren’t many teen moms.
“We live in this suburban area where we don’t really ‘see’ young moms,” Howard said. “But that doesn’t mean they’re not there… I think we don’t really see them because they feel ashamed.”
Howard said in more inner city areas, such as Seattle, there are more resources available to young moms. However, she said, there aren’t as many on the Eastside.
“As Northlake YoungLives grows, we want to build a community and work to make sure we’re connected to other resources to get the girls what they need,” Howard said. “We want to broaden their horizons and grow into self-dependency.”
Northlake YoungLives is set to kick off its first community event on the Eastside. The Community Baby Shower is open to all young moms 21 and younger, whether they’re newly pregnant or already parenting.
The free event provides diapers, wipes, bottles, kids clothes and toys. YoungLives is in need of volunteers to help run the May 11 event as well as donations. They are in need of lightly used items like clothes, toys and strollers and new items like diapers, wipes, pacifiers and car seats.
YoungLives has created an Amazon gift registry for those interested in donating.
“As we get into our new year, we also need volunteers for childcare, meals, transportation and other roles for our regular club meetings. Anyone interested can find us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/northlakeyounglives),” Howard said. Anyone interested in learning more about Northlake YoungLives can also contact Howard at 425-219-3936 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.