Hometown Hero Arvella Warren
As a mother of four grown children, Arvella Warren knows from experience how difficult raising children can be at times. She also understands the financial stress that comes with it, so when she read about Debra Aldridge, a 78-year old school cafeteria worker making $7 an hour in Chicago, and raising her two young grandsons whom she had full custody of, her heart went out to this woman.
Unable to get the woman off her mind, Warren began researching other cases where grandmothers were raising their grandchildren and discovered that in most cases these grandmothers were living right at or below the poverty level, with no other means of income or support. In fact, at the time of her research, there were more than 2.7 million grandmothers in America living in poverty while supporting their grandchildren.
After retiring from General Motors after 30 years, Warren knew she wanted to give back to the community in some way, and through her research, she knew she wanted to help these grandmothers whose sacrifices often kept their grandchildren from entering the foster system.
Warren reached out to four friends, also grandmothers, to see if they would be interested in helping her start a foundation. The response was a unanimous yes and in 2016 A Break for Grandmothers (ABFG) was founded.
The women knew that Ms. Aldridge, the Chicago grandmother who was the inspiration behind the foundation, should be the one to kick the program off so they reached out to her, but getting her to respond proved more difficult than they anticipated.
When Aldridge received the initial letter in the mail from the women behind ABFG, her first reaction was that it was a scam, so she threw the letter in the trash. Finally, after ABFG reached out several more times, she realized that it was no scam, but someone expressing a true interest in recognizing her efforts.
Warren, with the help of the foundation members, arranged a flight for Ms. Aldridge to come to Texas (while her grandchildren were staying with a friend) to attend the first of many monthly Saturday luncheons that the organization would host. While there, she was honored with a special lunch at the Country Club of Dallas with members of the foundation as well as other participants who provide encouragement. Ms. Aldridgea shared her story with everyone there and was presented with several personalized gifts, including a$50 check from the foundation, a $50 gift card, a certificate for a manicure/pedicure as well as a beautiful bouquet of roses in a keepsake vase. She was also presented with a certificate that declared she is “An Outstanding Grandmother.”
Since that inaugural luncheon in 2016, at least one grandmother has been celebrated by ABFG each month. The recipients are nominated by individuals who recognize the positive influence these grandmothers are having on the young children they are caring for. Warren and her team know that this is a huge responsibility, and through AFBG they are determined to provide encouragement and a way to give these well-deserving grandmothers a break from caregiving and an opportunity to be celebrated for their selflessness.
Arvella Warren was nominated by the Hampton Branch Location as a Hometown Hero. If you would like to support her cause, you can reach her at 214-229-8375 about making a donation. You can nominate a grandmother you know, and find out more about the foundation on the A Break for Grandmothers Facebook page.