Tag Archives: motherlove

Staff Spotlight: Amanda Read, Mother Love Coordinator

22 Jul

Our July Staff Spotlight features Amanda Read, MotherLove Coordinator. Amanda is new to the YWCA and to Asheville, and we couldn’t be more excited to have her part of our YWCA team & community.image1

How long have you lived in Asheville? I moved to Asheville in May, so I’m really new to town. Previously, I lived in Columbia, SC where I completed my Masters in Social Work at the University of South Carolina. I grew up in Greensboro, NC.

How long have you been at the YW? My first day at the YWCA was May 30th, so I have been here for just a little over a month.

Favorite thing(s) about the YWCA? I love the culture here at the YWCA. I am so happy to be a part of an organization that values the community served and its staff members. I like knowing that I am working for a purpose that will benefit peoples’ lives. It is also a perk to come to work every day and see people being active and working out. It motivates me to get moving for my own health and wellness.

What do you like to do in your spare time? I love to spend time with my family and friends. On the weekends, I like to watch live music. I will often drag a family member or friend to see a show with me regardless of the musical genre—I listen to anything from Hip-Hop, Indie, Grunge, R&B, Classical and Turkish music.

People would be surprised if they knew I… Love to watch Chinese and Thai soap operas. I find the acting and storylines more entertaining than American television. If asked, I will shamelessly recommend amazing dramas to watch on a rainy day.

What I Have Learned from 5 Years with MotherLove

10 Jun


Holly Gillespie, MotherLove Coordinator

Holly and her daughter Juniper enjoying the MotherLove 2016 graduation pool party.

Working with MotherLove has been a gift that I will always cherish.  I have been let into young lives at times of crisis, transition, power, and transformation.  I have spent my career at the YWCA so far.  I can’t imagine how different my life would be had that not been true.  I have learned so much from working in our community…

  • I have learned that listening matters more than I ever imagined.
  • I have learned to let go of trying to find the perfect thing to say to fix it.
  • I have learned that caring deeply for others means you must care deeply for yourself.
  • I have learned that teenagers can act like adults.
  • I have learned that adults can act like teenagers.
  • I have learned that teenagers often do act like teenagers, and that’s ok.
  • I have learned that you can’t really talk to someone about their love life.  You just have to listen and hope they can hear what they’re saying.
  • I have learned that the love a mother feels for her newborn baby is more powerful and magical than I ever dreamed.  I knew how it felt from the inside, but I cherish having witnessed the beauty of it time and again.
  • I have learned how tough and strong and determined and resilient a young woman has to be to have a baby and finish high school .
  • I have learned to ask for help.
  • I have learned that joy and support and laughter make a heavy load seem light, even if just for a moment.
  • And I have learned that we all have the power to affect each other deeply as we cross paths, and that small gestures of kindness and concern can impact others more than we can imagine.

Life must be about connections, or we are lost.

 – Holly Gillespie, MotherLove Coordinator

Holly Gillespie has been with the YWCA for 10 years. For the past five years, MotherLove has been a big part of Holly’s life.  At the end of the month, Holly will leave the program in the capable hands our new MotherLove Coordinator, Amada Read. We wish Holly the very best – we know she will continue to inspire and empower – and to learn.

The MotherLove program is made possible with support from the City of Asheville, NC Dept. of Health and Human Services – Women’s Health Branch – Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, Bank of America, TD Bank, the United Way of Asheville, Buncombe County Services Foundation and YWCA donors.

Happy Holidays – and Thank You – from MotherLove

21 Dec

The MotherLove Alumni planned, coordinated, and led the festivities at a recent holiday party for MotherLove participants, their family members, and their children.

MotherLove Holiday Party 2015 023

Many donors participated in our Giving Tree, generously donating gifts for 32 families led by teen parents. These gifts were much appreciated!

MotherLove Holiday Party 2015 021

Thank you to Alpha Delta Kappa, an educator’s service sorority, for their contribution of food and decorations.

MotherLove Holiday Party 2015 024

And thank you to WNC Knitters and Crocheters for Others for their contribution of blankets, books, hats & burp cloths for our families.

The MotherLove program is made possible with support from the City of Asheville, NC Dept Health and Human Services – Women’s Health Branch – Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, Bank of America, TD Bank, the United Way of Asheville, Buncombe County Services Foundation and YWCA donors.

Thank you, and happy holidays!

Another Transformational Year of MotherLove

2 Jun

073Another school year has come to a close for the parenting students of MotherLove.  This year, we wanted to celebrate our graduating seniors with such style that our rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors would enter into their next school year with stars in their eyes for the good things to come.

Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO, with a MotherLove baby

Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO, with a MotherLove baby

MotherLove high school seniors, as well as MotherLove’s continuing high school students, were invited – along with family and friends – to gather at A-B Tech for an End of Year banquet in the Magnolia Dining Room, overlooking a gorgeous view of the mountains.  Little ones played with bubbles outside, babies gazed in fascination at each other, young moms and their families shared stories over lunch,  and members of the YWCA’s Eleanor Roosevelt Giving Society enjoyed meeting our MotherLove participants and their babies.

071After a delicious lunch, provided by the chefs of Green Opportunities, it was time to honor the parenting students’ accomplishments for the year.  Tender words of advice and wisdom were offered up by Senator Terry Van Duyn, followed by the distribution of MotherLove’s first ever Senior Scholarship Awards.  Seven graduating seniors received a fully loaded laptop to support their future educational and career goals.  Many thanks to former Director of Women’s Empowerment Diana Sierra for initiating the Senior Scholarship; we hope it will become an annual tradition for MotherLove.

The afternoon closed with reflective thoughts, sage advice, and words of encouragement from Ahmarie Gaines and Jocelyn Franks, two of MotherLove’s graduates from last year who have served on the Alumni Committee throughout 2014-2015.

Ahmarie Gaines and her son

Ahmarie Gaines and her son

Afterwards, Motherlove’s Coordinator, Holly Gillespie, administered a very serious homework assignment for the summer: “Play with your baby.”  The necessary equipment for the assignment (a gift bag of toys) was distributed and everyone left the afternoon full of food, smiles, and the knowledge that MotherLove believes in them.

We are grateful to all those who helped make the entire day a success, and are looking forward to another transformational year in 2015-2016!

A MotherLove participant and her father

A MotherLove participant and her father

Living the Truth of our Mission: Nancy’s Story

1 Jun

Nancy in the YWCA’s Drop-In Child Care

By Alison Gooding

On any given day between Monday and Saturday you can find Nancy Herrera-Mondoza at the YWCA.  She works in the Drop-In Child Care Center, and is an active participant in the MotherLove alumni group.

Nancy is 19 years old and has lived in Asheville for at least 11 years.  She was introduced to the YWCA through her doctor two years ago during a prenatal visit when she sought help for loneliness and isolation.  The YWCA’s MotherLove program was recommended to Nancy as a nurturing and supportive place to meet young women like her who are pregnant and in high school. 

MotherLove helps pregnant and parenting teens stay in school, access higher education and vocational training, develop the skills and knowledge needed to become strong parents and delay another teen pregnancy.  The mentors and other moms in the group were welcoming and invited Nancy in with open arms.  Nancy was able to breathe a sigh of relief and think to herself “I can finally feel better now.”

Since her parents speak little English, the MotherLove staff were instrumental in keeping Nancy’s high school teachers informed of her appointments and flexible with her homework assignments. MotherLove also kept Nancy focused and aware of what she needed to do to earn her diploma.

Having her son Fernando was transformational, changing her life, and her career focus to wanting to work with children. 

Nancy in her high school graduation cap and gown

Nancy in her high school graduation cap and gown

After graduating, Nancy wanted to further her education but lacked the financial resources. She started working long hours at a low-wage job under deplorable conditions.  During that time she was missing out on her son’s developmental milestones.  She again felt stuck, anxious, and lonely.

That’s when the phone rang.  It was Holly Gillespie, the MotherLove Program Coordinator.  Holly called to tell Nancy about a job opening at the YWCA’s Drop-In Child Care.  Nancy applied, aced the interview, and quickly joined the Drop-In staff, working regular hours up to six days a week.

The YWCA is helping pay for Nancy’s education, and she has already earned credits toward a degree in early childhood education. Nancy is getting closer to her dream career of working full time in a child care setting.

Her almost two year-old son is with her during the day and she is thrilled to “learn and help my son out too.”  Fernando is thriving at Drop-In, impressing her with how he is learning to use the potty, wash his hands, and use his words.

Nancy and her son Fernando, May 2014. Photo by Sandra Stambaugh

Nancy and her son Fernando, May 2014. Photo by Sandra Stambaugh

Now that Nancy is working at Drop-In and has Fernando with her, she has found that many aspects of her life are improving.  Her relationship with her own parents has deepened and strengthened.   Nancy is able to prove to herself and her family that she is responsible and is prioritizing her son and her career. She is independent, she is empowered, and is on the road to self-sufficiency.

Nancy recently joined the MotherLove alumni group where she helps mentor high school students in the program.  She feels strongly about the value of having a peer talk to high school students about pregnancy and parenting, in addition to older role models and teachers.  She wants to be that peer-voice, helping young mothers and letting them know that “things are not as easy as you think – but I can help, and MotherLove can help too.” 

Holly says: “Nancy was very quiet and reserved for the first three months she was a participant in MotherLove. This Spring, she facilitated a powerful conversation with both teens and adults on a very sensitive topic – and she did a wonderful job. Over the past several years I’ve witnessed her find her voice. I believe she lives the truth of the YWCA mission.

Your donation is vital to helping create success stories like Nancy’s. Thank you! 

The MotherLove program is made possible with support from the City of Asheville, NC Dept Health and Human Services – Women’s Health Branch – Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, Landwirth Foundation, Preyer Family Foundation, YWCA donors, and the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.

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!



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.