Stephanie Adames, Puma Press Editor
The U.S. Department of Commerce paints a grim picture of life in this country for women—the poverty rates among women have been two to three times higher than the overall poverty rate among men since 1966. Statistics also show women continue to earn less than men, and 28 percent of unmarried working mothers earn income below the poverty level. Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, an Arizona based non-profit organization, aims to improve these statistics by empowering women through its services.
In 2002, the Jewell McFarland Lewis Fresh Start Facility located at 1130 E. McDowell Road in Phoenix opened its doors to offer women the resources and help they need in every stage of life. Legal document preparation, a health clinic, yoga classes, self-esteem workshops and child watch are a few of the different services Fresh Start has to offer. Fresh Start provides services for a variety of issues, including legal assistance, career inspiration and guidance or help with the loss of a love one.
Katie Stringham, the marketing coordinator at Fresh Start, said that participation in the center’s programs has increased since the economy has worsened. She also said many Fresh Start clients come from the nearby women’s shelter.
Paula Undeberg is currently staying at a nearby women’s shelter. She said that she comes to Fresh Start at least twice a week to use its computers.
“I am a huge supporter (of Fresh Start),” she said while utilizing the Internet in the library.
Fresh Start currently has 2,500 visits a month and recently expanded its hours to the public. In 2009, Fresh Start created classes that can be taken at the Institute of Technology in the East Valley. Fresh Start has also added a new service that provides education counseling for women who are planning to go back to school.
Two sisters, Pat Petzinick and Beverly Stewart, started this women’s organization in 1992 as a tribute to their grandmother, Auntie Jones. Jones struggled to raise three boys after her husband died of tuberculosis. She worked as a store clerk by day and ironed other people’s clothes in the evening. Her persistence in providing for her children inspired Petzinick and Stewart to start a foundation that could be a resource for women to utilize.
Fresh Start originally started when Petzinick and Stewart held a day of pampering at Rolf’s Salon in Scottsdale, which they both co-owned with Rolf Lohse. Each month, 20 women from shelters and social service agencies were invited to a day of pampering called Fresh Start Day of Beauty. This service is still provided to women at Rolf’s Salon and in the self-esteem room at Fresh Start.
Marcie Tiano, the education services coordinator at Fresh Start, said the center encourages women to attend the orientation class, so they may be aware of all the services available. Workshops and other services are offered throughout the week for a fee ranging between $5 and $25. Fresh Start is open to all women and provides free childcare.
“Any women in any transition can come to Fresh Start,” said Stringham.
Legal Information—Legal information sessions are available through Fresh Start. Women can learn how to prepare documents related to divorce, child custody and parenting time. Women can also obtain assistance from a legal document preparer that specializes in cases related to child support, divorce and custody at the East Valley Fresh Start location.
Financial Fitness—Workshops are available at Fresh Start for women seeking help with managing their finances. Budgeting, bankruptcy education and informational workshops about accessing government benefits are a few of the financial fitness resources Fresh Start provides.
Healthy Living and Fitness—Fresh Start offers a vast amount of workshops to assist women in leading a healthy lifestyle. Workshops and events are provided to address emotional, physical and mental health. Marriage and relationship workshops provide guidance on how to improve personal relationships with others. The healthy eating series offers courses to learn ways to eat healthy on a budget and balance fitness and nutrition. Restorative yoga, meditation and makeup classes are also some of the many workshops offered at Fresh Start.
Support and Empowerment Groups—Fresh Start provides support groups for women surviving abuse, divorce, bereavement and other life difficulties. The Second Half is a workshop for women over the age of 45 who want to plan the second half of their lives. There are also support groups available on parenting and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Career Development—Fresh Start offers a variety of resources for career development. This includes workshops on setting career goals, developing inner leader skills and networking. Career coaches are also available for one-on-one sessions for women seeking guidance on interviewing, job searching and resume writing. Fresh Start also puts together a career fair to help women connect with Valley employers.
For more information about the services Fresh Start provides, visit its website at http://www.wehelpwomen.com/