Mother's Day: Helping single moms reach
By Judy Gibbs Robinson
Carolyn Galloway will spend this Mother's Day in the first house
she's ever lived in, and she could be a homeowner by this time next
The single Oklahoma City mother lived in apartments all her life
but dreamed of a house with a yard for her 7-year-old son, Ryan, to
play in and a front porch for her two Chihuahuas, Sweetie and Tiny,
"There's nothing like a house. Nothing," she said. "It can't
compare to an apartment at all."
Home ownership seemed impossible in 2001 after Galloway's
diabetes progressed, leaving her unable to work. Life on a
disability check left little to save toward a down payment.
"You're already scuffling to make it, you know what I mean?" she
But as she searched for a house to rent, Galloway happened onto
one that would change her life. The little corner house with pink
roses growing at the edge of the front porch is owned by the
nonprofit Bethel Foundation, whose mission is turning single
mothers into homeowners.
Founder Lynda K. Powell seeks out single mothers who receive
Section 8 housing benefits but want to get out of the welfare
system. Powell buys old, run-down homes, refurbishes them, and
rents them to clients while they participate in programs that will
qualify them for home ownership.
For some women, that means going back to school. For others it
is job training. For all it includes credit counseling and debt
management classes. The foundation does not provide those services
but refers clients to agencies that do.
Nurturing also is part of the program; including Thanksgiving
baskets, Christmas gifts and birthdays remembered.
"Out of all the years of me renting, I've never found a landlord
like them," Galloway said.
Powell started the foundation because of her own experience as a
former single mother with a minimum-wage job.
"I could barely put food on the table and clothes on my baby. It
became an instant economic struggle," she said.
"What (housing) I could afford on minimum wage was infested with
bugs, rats; you name it. Nasty," Powell said.
She dreamed up a program that would help others like her and
incorporated the Bethel Foundation as a nonprofit, although it lay
dormant for many years.
In 2004, remarried and financially secure, Powell revived the
project, originally with her own money. A dozen donors are now
listed on the organization's Web site and Powell said that many
more have given but don't want recognition.
First to finish?
Today, 10 single mothers live in Bethel Foundation houses. As they
buy the homes they now rent, the foundation will use the income to
buy more houses and continue the process.
Galloway probably will be the first "graduate" of the program. She
is preparing to begin home ownership classes soon; the last step
before the foundation considers her ready to buy.
When the time comes, it may not be the little white house with
the pink rose bush by the porch.
"We're going to find something a little bigger, but this is what
got her started," Powell said.