After a 9 a.m. class at her local community college, Onasha Presberry catches a bus to drop off her daughter Omiyah at daycare. She then returns to school for afternoon classes, until she needs to leave to pick up Omiyah from daycare. She spends a few hours at a weekly parenting class, and then finally heads home. But she’s not home for long, because soon she needs to take a bus to her evening shift at the hospital where she works part time. And it’s only Monday.
Presberry, 22, is a single mother living in Pittsburgh, PA, and most days of the week are as busy as Monday.
Like many other young single mothers, Presberry struggles to make ends meet.
“Right now I’m in a really tough spot,” she said. “The hardest part is knowing that sometimes I can’t give her what she wants and that’s really hard.”
She knows firsthand the constant tug-of-war between making money and spending quality time with her daughter. Often one must come at the expense of the other. She’s pursuing a college degree and working a part time job to provide. Consequently, she can’t spend as much time with Omiyah as she’d like to.
But Presberry has something that many others in her shoes don’t: a local community who sees the injustice of this tug-of-war that so many low-income parents feel. Presberry said her mother has been an incredible support, but there’s another reason she feels hope for her future.
That additional support system is a nonprofit organization called Angels’ Place, which has been a fixture in the Pittsburgh community since 1984. Angels’ Place provides no-pay child care and family support systems for single parents who meet low-income guidelines and are full-time students.
Unlike other childcare programs, Angels’ Place focuses just as much on the development of parents as it does their children.
“We value education for the children, but we value education for the parents too,” Executive Director Beth Banas said.
“We want to help them to internalize that these children are so important, and that their future is literally in our hands and our hearts.”
This two-generation approach means parents must be enrolled full time in high school, college, or a school program, volunteer for three hours a week at Angels’ Place, and participate in the parent education program that includes classes on parenting issues, development issues and more.
“Every parent that enters, enters into a partnership,” Banas said. “We all work together to create a supportive environment that parents can thrive and develop in and can learn to become sustainable and successful.”
Similarly, a holistic approach that empowers parents and embeds them in a rich network of relationships is vital. At Angels’ Place, this network includes staff, volunteers, local churches, a local food bank, schools, and more.
“Every partnership that we have brings a piece to the puzzle that we’d be missing if they weren’t there,” Banas said.
Down the road from Angels’ Place, Pastor Dave Carver’s church, The First United Presbyterian Church of Crafton Heights, is one of those pieces to the early childhood puzzle.
Carver’s congregation places a special emphasis on nurturing young children in the community. The church runs a low cost pre-school program available to everyone in the neighborhood.
“I believe that the prime task of the Church in regards to early childhood is to establish an identity in our children and for them to know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of the Creator who has given them this life to enjoy,” he said.
Like Angels’ Place, Carver’s church places an emphasis on caring not just for children, but for their parents too.
The work of local churches and organizations like Angels’ Place are making a difference for parents and children in Pittsburgh. For Presberry, the interrelated and connected efforts put forth by herself, her family, and her community have all contributed towards giving Omiyah a fair chance in life.
“I don’t consider my daughter a mistake, she’s made me see life from a different point of view,” she said. “It’s beautiful to see her grow.”