The Jeremiah Program, a local organization whose mission is to help raise mothers out of poverty, hosts the L.I.V. Luncheon.
By Cy White
Motherhood is a complicated job. It’s oftentimes a thankless occupation, a forever mission to create and rear the world’s future. For mothers forced to travel this road alone with few resources, it becomes a matter of absolute survival. The Jeremiah Program, a local nonprofit, gives local mothers trying to survive through poverty a helping hand. With the upcoming L.I.V. Luncheon the organization celebrates both mothers who and the folks who have supported them and Jeremiah Program throughout the year. Executive Director Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D., talks about Jeremiah Program’s mission and what the community can do to support.
Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D.
(Photo by Kenneth Gall)
My name is Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D., and I am honored to serve as the executive director of Jeremiah Program in Austin. With 20 years in the nonprofit, civic engagement, social justice and education sectors, I bring my own lived experience to the role. I’m dedicated to serving the Austin community, disrupting cycles of poverty and building partnerships across sectors that focus on representation and inclusion for those historically marginalized. I have spent my professional career building authentic relationships in the Austin region through networking, strategic thinking, bold communication and listening. A first-generation college graduate, I completed my doctorate in education from the University of Texas at Austin, have been a faculty member at St. Edward’s University and have held leadership roles with the Leander Independent School District, the Hanger Foundation and most recently at Jolt.
How did you get involved with Jeremiah Program?
I started at Jeremiah Program this summer. As an educator, social justice leader and mother of three boys, my background and lived experiences, both professional and personal, prepared me for this time and place with JP. Its two-generation model of supporting, empowering and educating is one I believe in and wanted to contribute to. My personal values great align with the organization’s mission. I attribute this to my personal journey, which for all practical purposes, was completely disenfranchised. I am the daughter of a Mexican-American migrant family and worked alongside my family to build a janitorial business that was a source of great pride for the entire family. This pride and strong work ethic evolved into my drive and built the foundation for my personal and professional life. Though I did not have the social capital of my peers, I became a first-generation college graduate with the help of organizations like JP.
What is Jeremiah Program’s mission, and what are some ways it’s been able to fulfill that mission?
Jeremiah Program is a nonprofit organization helping single mothers invest in themselves so they can thrive and take steps toward economic mobility. With nine campuses across the country, JP’s programs empower single mothers to gain ongoing access to higher education, affordable childcare, housing and the training they need to further their professional development. Today, JP is a national thought leader on generational poverty and the systemic barriers facing single-parent families. Our success lies in our commitment to meeting the moment. Addressing structural inequities and following the leadership of women most proximate to the issues of early childhood education, college access, income inequality and affordable housing.
What have been some of the difficulties fulfilling the mission (especially in the midst of a pandemic)?
Moms, especially single moms, have been hit the hardest during the pandemic. We’re proud to have been able to support them during this difficult time as they faced new and unique challenges. Last year, 89% more new moms completed our Empowerment course than the year before in Austin alone. Nationally, we impacted more than 1,500 lives, a 63% increase from 2020, including 267 new moms who completed our Empowerment & Leadership curriculum.
What have been some of Jeremiah Program’s greatest triumphs/successes?
Jeremiah Program came to Austin in 2013, in partnership with Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation. In 2017, Jeremiah Program opened its own 35-unit housing campus for single moms and their children experiencing poverty. The campus includes an onsite child development center, with capacity to serve up to 60 children. In 2021, JP Austin supported 170 moms and children, with mothers averaging 27 years old and annual incomes of $16,721.
Tell us about the Love to L.I.V. luncheon.
Jeremiah Program Austin is excited to host a luncheon celebrating our work and supporters. Love to L.I.V. derives from the Jeremiah Program’s Empowerment sessions. The core value is that all women are Lovable, Important and Valuable. The Love to L.I.V. Luncheon will celebrate the amazing people who have supported the organization over the year. This includes honoring Ryan Companies with the Noble Champion Award, as well as Sharon and Bruce Walker with the Compassionate Heart Award. The event also includes the opportunity to hear from the moms themselves about how the Jeremiah Program has positively impacted their lives as well as their children’s.
How do you envision propelling Jeremiah Program even further?
Community partners are critical in helping to support our mission and success. I’m excited to continue building our community engagement to develop strong connections and partnerships for years to come.
What can people do to support Jeremiah Program and, further, women and families who need help?
Attend our upcoming Love to L.I.V. Luncheon on Oct. 27 to hear from Jeremiah Program alumni, current participants, leaders in our organization and to actively engage in our mission. You can also learn more about Jeremiah Program from our website. Encourage anyone in your network who would benefit from our program and community to apply. Please also consider giving a monetary donation to help support our work.
What do you see as the ultimate goal of Jeremiah Program?
Our goal is that every single mother in this country living in poverty has equal opportunities, support and chances at economic mobility.
All of JP’s programs provide a blueprint of how investing in a mother’s full journey toward economic mobility can have a positive and lasting economic impact on communities across the country, specifically for communities of color.
The Love to L.I.V. Luncheon takes place at Fairmont Austin on Oct. 27 at 11:30 a.m. Tables and tickets for the Love to L.I.V. Luncheon are now available for purchase.