Interview with Peggy Kerwin, Executive Director of Solve Maternity Homes
The series of interviews with the Executive Directors of the LWRWC’s adopted 501(c)(3) charities concludes with an up close and personal interview with Peggy Kerwin, Executive Director of Solve Maternity Homes. In the following interview, Peggy explains the remarkable work that Solve does to help at-risk pregnant women of all ages and their babies in our community. The interview also shares information requested by the LWRWC members about “hands-on” volunteer opportunities with Solve.
Question: LWRWC members have expressed interest in becoming more involved in hands-on volunteer opportunities with our adopted 501(c)(3) charities. Please tell us about the types of volunteer work opportunities that are available at Solve and who are members should contact if they are interested in volunteering.
Peggy’s Answer: As a 24 hour per day, 7 day per week, 365 day round the clock housing program, the opportunities for volunteer service at SOLVE are endless. From hand’s-on help with residents, projects and maintenance for our four homes, clerical support in our office, fundraising event help and serving as a liaison for the organization to your civic organization or spiritual house of worship, we need you!
Typically we meet in person with anyone interested in volunteering and provide them a tour and personal connection time. In getting acquainted, the right fit for volunteer service usually presents itself through the individual’s gifts, talents and desired areas of service. We are truly thankful for every one of our precious volunteers!
Question: What inspired you to embrace such a challenging leadership position? What were your expectations when you joined Solve and were they fulfilled?
Peggy’s Answer: I honestly just put one foot in front of the other and then jumped in with both feet. I joined SOLVE in 2007 as the Assistant Director and took over the leadership role in 2013 when our former Executive Director retired. I come from a business background and have always had a huge heart for social service needs in the communities I have lived in. Coming to SOLVE just allowed me to combine my background, training and work experience with my heart to serve. No matter how many hours I expend on behalf of SOLVE, it never feels like work.
My expectations upon coming to SOLVE were that we would always put what was right, good and decent for the people we serve above anything else. And we do. I love that in this ministry, while we have structure and guidelines, if something makes sense we can do it. It puts people first!
Question: What services and programs are offered by Solve? How you are able to offer these services and programs free of charge?
Peggy’s Answer: At SOLVE, the largest aspect of our organization is residential housing for up to 70 women annually in one of our four homes (two in Bradenton, one in Sarasota and one in Englewood, Florida) Housing consists of cost-free room and board and the agreement to participate in our structured housing program designed to meet women where they are at when they walk through our doors and we customize a personal plan launching them towards successful living by the time they are ready to leave six to ten months later.
Each resident meets weekly with our Counselors and Case Managers and works to overcome obstacles and make a plan for success. This includes education, employment and life-skills training. In addition, each home is staffed by a House Mom who lives with our residents 24/7 and becomes a valuable connection as new strategies and skills are learned…helping to keep our ladies accountable and moving forward. Living on a budget, saving money, completing educational pursuits, learning to shop, cook and clean, maintaining personal space and reporting to classes and groups are just some of the responsibilities our ladies have placed upon them while at SOLVE.
SOLVE is a privately funded non-profit organization that does not seek or accept government funding. We do this for two reasons. 1. We want to set a good example to our residents as we work to move them of government funded programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and WIC. 2. SOLVE is a faith based organization that desires to include worship as part of our program.
As such, our small staff and wonderful volunteers work very hard every year to raise the necessary funds required to provide top quality programs and services to the women seeking out help. Various fundraisers throughout the year as well as annual and monthly donors and one time gifts and grants sustain the ministry to provide for the needs of our clients. We are thankful for every gift received, regardless of size and believe it is our great responsibility to steward these gifts thoughtfully.
Question: What do you consider to be your most significant accomplishments as Executive Director?
Peggy’s Answer: Providing the programs and services that ensure that our residents leave our program stronger and healthier regardless of if their decision is to parent or choose an adoptive family to raise their children. This is something we must be attuned to every moment of every day as no two residents, life situations, personalities, brokenness, healing processes, resiliency, etc. is exactly the same. It is my role ensure that our staff is operating out of their best selves at all times, so that our residents receive our best. They get one opportunity to benefit from the SOLVE program and we want to ensure we are setting them up for success.
Beyond this, the opening of our fourth home in Sarasota and securing our DCF licensing for this home was a major accomplishment. We felt strongly as an organization that we needed to raise all of the funds for all construction to ready the home for group living and two-years of operating costs so that this new home did not put strain on the other homes operating budgets. We did! Navigating through the challenging process of licensing a new group home in 2016 and working with the many municipalities required to be involved proved challenging at times, but in the end, by God’s grace, the community has come around and embraced this new home and we have House Mom’s and Residents in place.
Question: What was your most difficult challenge in 2016?
Peggy’s Answer: The opening of the new home in Sarasota as listed above. I am so very thankful to my husband Brian, who I am privileged to work alongside, for his embracing this new home and serving as our project leader. His blood, sweat, tears and prayers are etched within the walls of this home and I am grateful to him and the many special professional and novice volunteers and vendors who came alongside to catch our vision of creating a new home that would serve the needs of the women in Sarasota who will benefit from the programs and services SOLVE offers.
Question: In what ways do you see Solve growing in the next few years?
Peggy’s Answer: Oh this is so exciting! We have for some time had vision of a program beyond SOLVE that would provide structured housing and continued programmatic services to our educationally minded SOLVE graduates. We know that women, whether parenting or not, cannot survive on minimum wage jobs. The only way to move beyond these lower paying positions is through targeted education in certificate and degree programs, and many of these can lead to placing women on-track to earn $18 – $20 or more per hour. This can make a world of difference in the quality of life available to that woman and her child, as well as establishing education as an important priority as she raises her child. However without stable housing and a strong support system, it will be nearly impossible for these women to accomplish this next level of education because so much of their energy is expended on keeping a roof over their head and food in the refrigerator.
EVOLVE is the name of our program and we are currently seeking land in what we have determined to be the ideal educational corridor of SR 70 / 53rd Avenue as it would put our ladies on the bus route to State College of Florida, Manatee Technical College and other area colleges and programs. This area also has ample day care opportunities for our resident’s children and potential employment opportunities as well.
Funding will be key. We are currently working with individuals in the area to put a cost to our planned design and we have a task-force that will be specifically working on this project. Any readers who have a heart for Women, Children, Families and Community that would like to join us are welcome. Many hands make light work. For more information, I can be reached at the office at 941-748-0094.
Question: Please tell us a little about you and why you chose to live and work in the Sarasota-Manatee area.
Peggy’s Answer: My husband Brian and I, along with two college age daughters and an 11 year old son (along with dogs and cats) moved to Bradenton in June 2005. The girls were each away at school at their respective colleges, so with just one at home full-time, our departure from the west coast of California to the west coast of Florida.
For us, this was a second half of life move, believing that the first half of life was spent doing what we thought we were supposed to do and this half was about getting out and getting busy doing what God called us to do. It is too long of a story to share here on how we settled on Bradenton, but I truly believe it was all part of the plan for my time to serve at SOLVE.
I had always thought that when our children were grown, we would take in foster teen girls that needed direction and love to set their course of action. Now I stand back in awe as I realize that in essence this is what we are doing…just on a larger scale with greater impact. Such a blessing to live in this community and be a part of such a wonderful organization and connected with so many caring individuals.
Question: What do you like best about partnering with our LWR Women’s Club?
Peggy’s Answer: Where do I begin? I have had such joy in participating with and getting to know many ladies who are members of LWRWC over the last few years. I love the joy, enthusiasm, and heart to socialize with each other while wanting those connections to be meaningful to the community. These ladies put their words into action…they are my kind of ladies! So beyond being grateful for the support SOLVE receives as a charity of choice along with SMART and HOPE, I am grateful for friendships that have been formed.
The ladies of LWRWC are well organized and they think outside of the box. They represent a diverse group of women who have come from a myriad of career paths and life experiences. The combination of which is a great force of action for doing good, right here where we live. Thank you ladies!