MotherLove Winter Craft Party

12 Dec

By Holly Gillespie, MotherLove Coordinator

’s recent Winter Craft Party was a great success- from crafting to making new friends to a tiny, toddler dance party!


We had around 35 parenting teens and their support gather for a vivacious evening of sewing baby booties, making teething-baby friendly necklaces, and mixing up some homemade biscuit mix.  048

A special shout out goes to the young dads who tried their hand at making wire-work bird’s nest necklaces for their special ladies!



MotherLove enjoyed the company of 4 brave volunteers who were willing to learn – and then lead – our chosen crafts: Katie Foley, Debbie Welsh, Sally Weldon, and our own Adrienne Ammerman.  Many thanks, ladies!


We were also honored to welcome Betsy Stolks, long time coordinator of the WNC Knitters and Crocheters for Others group – a dedicated group of knitters and crocheters who are willing each year to lovingly hand knit baby blankets, hats, and scarves for the young women of MotherLove and their babies.


She shared the following letter with our assembled group:

“These knitted and crocheted baby blankets are made with love and caring for you courageous women.

You are on a very important journey of being a mother of a precious human being. Motherhood is a wonderful and challenging job.

We wish you and your baby a great life, and we hope that this blanket keeps your baby warm and comforted.”


It was a warm, welcoming, and sometimes quite giggly evening that culminated in the distributing of our Giving Tree gifts to our young families.


Many thanks to all those that made this joyous event possible!  Happy Holidays!



Volunteer Spotlight: Ariana Weaver

10 Dec

By Gerry Leonard, Volunteer Coordinator

Ariana Weaver and Gerry Leonard at UNC-Asheville

Every month we will feature a new volunteer in our ‘Volunteer Spotlight.’ For the month of December, the spotlight shines brightly on Ariana Weaver.

You’ve probably seen Ariana around town. She grew up in Weaverville, NC and has spent her entire life here in the Asheville area. More recently, you’ve probably spotted her here at the YWCA – volunteering in our After School program, helping set up at the Persimmon Luncheon, and handing out Voter Pledge Cards at our Health Fair. In fact, Ariana’s link to the YWCA dates all the way back to when she was a student at Asheville Middle School – she volunteered with our After School program back then as well!

Ariana is currently a junior at UNC – Asheville, a Health & Wellness Promotion major. When she needed to fulfill a service learning project with a community partner for school, choosing the YWCA was a no-brainer. Ariana says, “I chose the YW because I love the diversity of their programs and the many opportunities that they have. I was already familiar with their School Age program, and I really wanted to be involved because I love children.”

A moment that stands out for Ariana occurred during the After School program focus on the human body. She helped the students design visual aids to represent the human body and a 3-D model to represent the brain. This was particularly rewarding for Ariana, because “I really enjoyed working with the students as they got to be really involved into designing the project.”

UNC – Asheville recently held their end-of-the-semester event to celebrate completed internships and service learning projects, and Ariana stood proudly next to her YWCA display, filled with pictures and moments from her time in After School. Ariana says: “It was an awesome experience for me. I loved working with the staff who were all really caring and helpful. All the children were great, and were willing to accept me into their classroom. I also felt that the YW as a whole was really organized.”

When Ariana isn’t volunteering at the YWCA or busy with school work, she enjoys being outdoors, reading, writing poetry, singing and dancing. She also really enjoys working out in at Club W – you probably will see her at an upcoming Body Combat class.  And even though Ariana no longer has to fulfill volunteer hours for school, she still plans on continuing to volunteer with the After School program.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the YWCA of Asheville, please visit


Finding Strength and Balance at the YW

4 Dec

meg picMeghan Mulhearn has been a Club W Member since 2010, and a musician for a majority of her life.

A native of Rockville, MD and the Outer Banks, Meghan attended Appalachian State and moved to Asheville in 2002. She’s been a violinist since she was 7 years-old, and played in symphonies – until making a switch to playing her own music in 2003.

She now performs and records with a wide range of musical projects including  U.S. Christmas, and Judas Horse.  An accomplished studio musician, she is also a guest musician on numerous albums spanning many genres. Since the release of Oblivion Songs in early 2014, Meghan’s solo work as Divine Circles has earned critical praise, described as “a beautiful collection of intimate and experimental songcraft filtered through the Appalachian dusk.”

When Meghan joined the YW’s Club W she was looking for a place that was relaxed. At Club W, Meghan is a fan of the kettle bells, Tai Chi, the pool, and uses a 5K app on her phone. She also enjoys the old-school fun of the rowing machine, which “feels like a kids toy but is still a good workout.” What adds to the fun is the laid-back atmosphere at Club W. “It’s all ages and all kinds of people, hanging out and getting healthy. Everyone gets along – it feels good to go there.”

Meghan’s fitness focus is on her strength. As a musician, she’s realized how physical her job is, and is intentional about integrating body awareness into her musical practice. This includes breathing, stretching, and feeling balanced. Meghan says: “I’ve always been strong, and I’m now realizing there’s subtlety and balance in the strength. When I do exercise it becomes apparent in my music.”

An added benefit is that even when Meghan is touring she knows that her money is a donation that helps support the YW’s programs. “It’s something I feel like I should be putting my money towards. All the goals of the YW are in line with how I feel – working on the Board of Girls Rock Asheville, being a female musician – they all work together with the YW’s mission of empowering women. No other gym is going to offer that.”

She adds: “This community is really supportive of what I do. I like to give back.”


Learning to Take Care of a Baby – And Myself

26 Nov

This speech was written by MotherLove graduate Ahmarie Gaines, who spoke recently at the YWCA’s Persimmon Luncheon. Thank you, Ahmarie, for sharing your story.

My name is Ahmarie. I’m 18 years old, and the mother of a beautiful 2 and half year old, Cain.

Ahmarie Gaines speaking at the 2014 YWCA Persimmon Luncheon

Ahmarie Gaines speaking at the 2014 YWCA Persimmon Luncheon

I was going into my sophomore year at Erwin high school when I got pregnant. My mom was devastated. She told me: “Either you get an abortion or you leave my house.” So I left my mom’s house and moved in with my dad. I took with me the strong faith that my boyfriend and I were going to make it as a family.

I started my sophomore year at Asheville High when I was 8 weeks pregnant, and I didn’t know anyone. I was uncomfortable at my dad’s house, and my relationship with my boyfriend was falling apart. I felt so alone and vulnerable. I knew I was going to have to do this alone. I had to find faith and strength in myself, and that’s what continued to pull me forward.

When I was pregnant and a new mom I was getting judged from every corner – from family, friends, and outsiders. Because of their prejudices my son’s father’s family threatened me throughout my pregnancy and the first year of Cain’s life that they were going to take full custody of my baby. It was infuriating and terrifying.  The threats from Cain’s father’s family eventually ceased, and resulted in the deliberate and total absence of themselves in his life. No communication what-so-ever.

My counselor at school introduced me to Holly, the YW’s MotherLove coordinator, very early in my pregnancy. The program felt like something I had to do because I knew I didn’t have a lot of choices or people I trusted. In fact, I didn’t trust the support of the YW at first – I didn’t believe it could be real. But MotherLove was there for me the whole time, and I grew with the program.

Ahmarie Gaines and Holly Gillespie

Ahmarie Gaines and Holly Gillespie

At first it was hard for me to open up in the support group meetings that were held here at the YWCA. But after all the babies arrived us moms became much friendlier. We became a community. It felt so good to have people who believed in my ability to be a good mother, and to graduate high school. They had confidence in me.

In the early stages of my pregnancy I was educated on how to be a good parent. Holly and the YWCA had me connected with a mentor, Sally, who I’m still really tight with. Sally’s made it possible for me to focus on my education… she’s helped me so much. The YWCA and Holly helped me get a labor and delivery doula from Start From Seed, and they gave me a car seat to take Cain home from the hospital. They helped me work with my teachers to have everything I needed during my maternity leave so that I wouldn’t get too far behind in school. MotherLove helped me sign up for childcare vouchers, so when Cain was 6 months he got into the Asheville City Schools Preschool.

Holly really gave me the expectation that I would apply for college. I knew I was smart enough and I believed in myself, but my GPA wasn’t too strong. Holly told me about A-B Tech and I’m now working towards and Associates degree, with a plan to transfer to a 4-year university.

In 5 years I see myself out of college, and doing some kind of social work. I’ve always wanted to be someone who can help others, somebody who people can talk to.

I’m still involved with MotherLove. Along with a few other graduates of the program we meet with Holly and give her advice about what we thought helped us, or what should be different, and ideas for speakers.

Ahmarie and other MotherLove graduates who came to share feedback on how to improve the program

Ahmarie and other MotherLove graduates who came to share feedback on how to improve the program

I’m excited because Holly’s made plans to allow me to come and talk to the girls occasionally. I want to let them know that it’s not impossible, and it’s not going to be picture perfect either. It’s important to try and to love your child the best you can and do the best you can.

And I’d like to say to all of you today, as supporters of the YW: you can continue a program that saves young girls’ lives. You can help them succeed, and be part of society just like everyone else. MotherLove and the YW is a major support system – to me and all of the young women who participate.

Without MotherLove I wouldn’t have finished high school. I wouldn’t have had the resources I needed—I wouldn’t have known where to begin to look. I wouldn’t have been as competent or confident in being a parent. I learned how to take care of a baby, and myself.

My dreams for my son Cain are endless. I dream of his success through school, I fantasize about his enthusiasm for sports. I dream that we will be thick as thieves as he gets older. I dream of him maturing into a confident young man, who acknowledges and is proud of my strength and the efforts as his mother. I dream that one day I will instill a work hard attitude in him, and he’ll know he can achieve anything.

Thank you.

MotherLove Giving Tree

24 Nov

The MotherLove Giving Tree is now up in the YWCA lobby – please come take a look!

Volunteers and YW staff decorating the MotherLove Giving Tree in the YWCA lobby.

Volunteers and YW staff decorating the MotherLove Giving Tree in the YWCA lobby.

The Giving Tree is an annual initiative to provide teen parents and their babies with items from their personalized, wintertime wish lists.  Items commonly requested include baby clothes and toys, diapers, and winter clothing for teen moms.

If you’d like to participate, please look for the basket of stars next to our Giving Tree in our lobby.  To sponsor a teen parent and her child, simply choose a star from the basket.  The star will list the family’s wintertime needs.

We ask that gifts are returned to the YWCA by December 9th, as they will be distributed to MotherLove  teens at our Winter Gathering.

Decorating Giving Tree MotherLove 2014 009

YW staff and MotherLove volunteers in front of the Giving Tree.


YW Volunteer Spotlight: Katie Foley

14 Nov

Katie FoleyBy Gerry Leonard, Volunteer Coordinator

Katie Foley moved to Asheville only planning to be here for a year, but then her career path changed: a new-found focus on women’s health and women’s rights. She’s a firm believer in the idea that “a world that is good for women is good for everyone.” For Katie, having her daily work align with her personal values is really important to her.

She currently works at Mission Hospital in the emergency room, collecting information from patients. Even surrounded by heavy emotional situations, she still finds that there is a lot of room for personal growth. Katie is also in the Nursing Program at Biltmore Park. It’s an accelerated program, which she hopes to incorporate in both her medical and advocacy work.

Katie has been volunteering with the YWCA’s MotherLove program for about a month. She was first drawn to the MotherLove program because it lines up with so many of her interests, personally and professionally. Katie says: “I wanted to be involved in a program that supports the needs of parenting and pregnant teens.”

The volunteer moment that stands out for Katie at this point in her experience was the Domestic Violence Vigil at A-B Tech, which took place in late October. Katie says, “it was the first time I was able to interact with the community through MotherLove. It was really encouraging to see the kind of support that came out of the community. It was eye-opening to see that people want to fix, people want to help, and people want to change.”

Katie hopes that through volunteering with MotherLove, she can “learn to interact with people, how to use resources, how to connect with people, and gauge what the community needs most.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the YWCA of Asheville, visit

Happy Veteran’s Day!

10 Nov

By Pamela White Wolsey, Membership Coordinator

Please join us for light refreshments and conversation as we honor those who have served on Tuesday, November 11 from 11-1:00pm in the Multi Purpose Room.

In addition to our many members who have served, several of our staff have also served in the military. It has been an honor to discuss with each of them their memories (good and bad times) and I am excited to share their stories.

Johnny Michael Little (Mike), Bus Driver, entered the US Army when he was just 19 years old and was commonly referred to as the “old man.” Mike served our country for four years as a Cannonier. During this time he was stationed at Ft. Hood, TX, and he also spent 6 months in Germany on a special weapons training expedition.   Mike says that he learned so much from his time in the service, including attention to detail and discipline, but also adds that because his mother instilled so many values in him as a child, he already felt like a soldier when he entered the military. His toughest challenge was being out in the field for weeks at a time.

053Kitty Schmidt, Aquatics Coordinator, served in the US Navy for 5 years as a nurse and was stationed all over the west coast. Often new soldiers are advised not to volunteer for anything, but Kitty recalls volunteering for everything and loving it.  Kitty says that the best part about her time in the service was that she received the best medical experience of her career. The hardest part about those years was being away from family.

010Lifeguard Eric Vess was in the US Navy for four years. He was one of only 16 to graduate from the BUDs/SEAL class. He served the majority of his time in Little Creek, Virginia with Seal Team IV. Eric refers to his time in the service as, “the best job in the world because I got to jump out of airplanes, scuba dive, work out, and blow stuff up.” Like Kitty, Eric recalls the hardest part being his separation from his wife. To this day, Eric continues to help people prepare for military service.

???????????????????????????????Robert Grant in our Maintenance Department served in the US Air Force as a maintenance technician for 7 years, 2 months and 29 days. He traveled extensively during his time in the service. Stateside, Robert served in Las Vegas and Tampa; while abroad he traveled to Thailand, Japan and Korea. His favorite part about this time of his life was working on different aircraft, especially the F4 Phantom. His least favorite part occurred in Thailand when he was often sent to recover the black boxes from downed aircraft. Robert would have continued in the military, but he was offered a job with Carolina Power & Light where he worked 29 years.

???????????????????????????????Charlton Owens spent 6 years in the Marines and was stationed in Quantico, Virginia. He recalls this time as a positive experience because it taught him leadership skills. The most difficult parts about the Marines were the obstacle courses, leeches, and sand fleas.

005Bus driver Eddie Tolbert served the longest duration in the military out of all the employees at the YWCA – 10 years. Like Robert, Eddie’s enlistment in the US Army as a Heavy Weapons Specialist sent him to a variety of different places: Kansas, Georgia, Korea, Germany and Hawaii. Because of all this travel, he feels that the best part about the job was that it taught him how to respect other cultures. Sadly, the toughest part was being stationed in the (DMZ) Demilitarized zone where he said, “a lot of stuff was going on that the world didn’t know about.”

049And I, Pamela White Wolsey, was also in the service for 6 years, ending my service as an Ammunition Specialist in Ft. Hood, Texas. My experience in the US Army taught me to respect those who have served. I certainly had my tough times, but I have no regrets. Serving in the military is a whole other kind of education …in many ways.

To all the Veterans out there, present and past all over the world (not only on November 11, but every day), THANK YOU for toughing it out and sacrificing so much for our country!


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