Hope may be running out for the Hope Chest program, which provides teen mothers with baby supplies and parenting skills, because its three-year grant funding has come to an end.
Started in 2010, the South Memphis Alliance's Hope Chest program is designed to help impoverished single teen mothers. The program's grant came from the Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth.
Hope Chest program director Tameka Daniel said that the South Memphis Hope Chest Baby Store receives the most clients out of any of the four baby stores run by the county.
"We have the largest amount of referrals in the city coming to our store, which is why funding is imperative at this point," Daniel said. "The teen pregnancy numbers aren't dropping, so we really want to make sure we are empowering these mothers with everything we can."
Teen mothers who enter the Hope Chest program take lessons in childcare, learning everything from how to change diapers to how to deal with stress. Mothers in the program get points for attending classes, which can then be traded for baby supplies ranging from clothes to car seats.
Once they spend 480 points, the teen mothers can only access the consignment portion of the baby store. Daniel said 480 points covers all the basic needs of a child.
The South Memphis Alliance opened a laundromat earlier this year, offering reduced prices for washing machines and dryers, in addition to a number of outreach programs inside the laundromat. South Memphis Alliance founder Reginald Milton said that the laundromat has helped the Hope Chest program.
"A large number of our mothers who utilize this program also use our laundromat, which is the whole reason we started the laundromat — to increase outreach in the community," Milton said. "We let them know about this facility, and we use some of the funding we get from the laundromat to help keep this [Hope Chest program] going."
But even with funding coming from the South Memphis Alliance and private donations, Milton said the Hope Chest program in South Memphis will experience major cuts within the year if funding can't be secured.
"One of the things about being a non-profit is that we never say never," Milton said. "It's our business to make something out of nothing, but by the end of the year, we will need to find funding to keep this program at the level it is at now."
Single mother Anntoria Daniels found out about the Hope Chest program while she was taking a member of her family to another program that the South Memphis Alliance offers. Daniels decided she would join the program when she was pregnant with her son.
"It helped me with everything my son has now," Daniels said. "I didn't have to have a job while I was pregnant to get things for my baby, but the points I got from attending the classes helped me get what I needed. Not having his dad to help me get those things, this program was really my only option."