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Omaha woman starts nonprofit to help mothers in poverty
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Omaha woman starts nonprofit to help mothers in poverty

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Meredith Metcalf and her son, Milo. Being a single mother “has been a challenge for me, even with the privileges and resources I have,” she said.

Meredith Metcalf became a single parent when her son was 4 weeks old.

She was lucky, she said. She had a master’s degree, work experience and a savings account to rely on after her divorce.

“Most single moms can’t say that,” she said. “It has been a challenge for me, even with the privileges and resources I have.”

There is no road map for moms in Metcalf’s situation. She wants to use her background in social work and human resources to address that deficit.

But not just single moms — she wants to help any mother who is struggling with poverty.

She created an organization called MOMentum in November, and after it received tax-exempt status in March, she has been eager to get to work.

“The mission is to reduce the feminization of poverty by eliminating barriers to employment for moms while also helping employers diversify their workforce,” she said.

The feminization of poverty is the phenomenon in which women experience poverty at much higher rates than men. According to the organization UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme, the COVID-19 pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line, reversing decades of progress for gender equality.

Citing a report by the Omaha Community Foundation, Metcalf said that before COVID-19, 46% of all working women in the U.S., or 28 million, worked in jobs paying low wages, with median earnings of only $10.93 per hour. Since February 2020, more than 2.3 million women have dropped out of the workforce, compared with 1.8 million men.

Non-white single mothers were hit hardest, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Now that we’re seeing what the pandemic has done to moms, and lower-income moms in particular, we really need to take action and do so quickly,” Metcalf said.

She wants to use her organization to connect underemployed and unemployed women to the community resources they need, whether that be transportation, child care or learning to budget.

Services are free for the women involved. Employers who want to partner to fill their open positions or provide support for current employees are asked to make a donation to the organization.

Although still in its infancy, MOMentum has already made a difference.

Metcalf recently helped a single mom with a 4-year-old child who was struggling to get to work each day and needed a job that she could do remotely. They connected several times, updating her résumé and working on interview techniques.

That mom just found a remote customer service position that pays $2 more an hour than her previous position.

“Right now, we’re trying to build up the talent network and get as many moms to sign up as possible,” Metcalf said.

The Lincoln Southeast High School and Nebraska Wesleyan University graduate still works full time as a consultant and also teaches at Metropolitan Community College. While 9-year-old Milo plays outside in the evenings in their midtown neighborhood, she focuses on her passion to help women.

Her hope is to expand to where MOMentum would be a full-time endeavor, helping women connect with jobs they enjoy and that can pay their bills and let them be successful in the long term.

She has received a $10,000 grant from the Omaha Community Foundation to help her get the ball rolling.

“There are a lot of workforce development programs for certain populations, such as veterans, people with disabilities or people leaving the criminal justice system, but there is nothing specific for moms in the Omaha area,” she said. “Moms are such a unique population in terms of strengths. They are resilient and resourceful, but there are still so many challenges when it comes to securing and maintaining employment.”

To learn more, visit momswithmomentum.org.


Omaha World-Herald: Afternoon Update

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Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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