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Meet Shellby Jones of Women With A Cause Foundation in Downtown Denver

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shellby Jones.

Please kick things off for us with some background on the story.
Women With A Cause arguably began during our Founder, Susan Kiely’s childhood. Susan was raised by a single mother in the 1940s, and her experience of the uncertainty and economic instability that often accompanies single parenting (Susan attended thirteen elementary schools, for example) motivated her to work hard in school and find a sustainable career path. The organization, however, was founded in 2005 after Susan attended a World Vision AIDS Day breakfast and learned about the plight of women in the developing world and was inspired to do something. Susan then traveled to India, Ghana, Thailand, and Ethiopia with the mission of empowering women toward self-sufficiency. The women being served were taught how to use a computer, sew, cook, and take care of their children. In 2010, Susan decided to bring Women With A Cause to Denver because she saw the substantial need in her own city. She started the WE Scholars Program that carries on the mission of embracing and empowering single mothers and single women veterans in need toward self-sufficiency through education and training. Since 2005, the organization has grown from supporting five women with wraparound services, to currently supporting twenty-one women across the Denver metro area.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Every nonprofit faces challenges at times whether with funding, staff, changes in the economy, etc. Woman With A Cause has faced some of those challenges but has pushed through to continue growing and supporting more and more women in Colorado.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Women With A Cause Foundation story. Tell us more about the business.
Women With A Cause currently focuses on one program that encompasses all services. The WE Scholar Program focuses on finding a career path that enables single mothers and single women veterans to break the cycle of poverty. In order to be in the program, a woman must be a single mother or single woman veteran who makes less than $25,000 a year. Scholars work part-time while attending school, compete for scholarships, participate in life skills classes, parenting education, and financial literacy curriculum. Each Scholar is assigned a personal accountability partner (mentor). In the last six years, the program has successfully graduated twenty Scholars who have gone on to careers paying at least $45,000 year. For the 2017-2018 school year, twenty-one Scholars participated in the program with five graduates in May 2018. In the 2018-2019 school year, twenty-one Scholars participated in the program and for 2019, 30 Scholars are expected. All Scholars are considered low-income as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On March 1, 2019 applications opened for a new program focused on the same demographic of women who have the desire to become teachers. The Para Educator to Licensure program will take place in Alamosa, CO and start on May 1, 2019, with a cohort of 5 single mothers. The end goal is to meet the women in their communities, educate them locally, and have them return to their communities as teachers, thus helping to address the rural education teacher shortage.

Many women experiencing poverty, homelessness, trauma, and uncertainty about the future often have difficulty reaching their goals. Next, to these difficulties, the Cliff Effect is the single greatest barrier to self-sufficiency for low-income families. It is the equivalent of taking one step forward and two steps back. Eligibility for government support is based on income with benefits being removed as income increases. The lack of gradual release often leads to a situation where parents are working harder but are more financially burdened. WWAC is focused on bridging this income and support gap by providing a safety net while women achieve true self-sufficiency. In the six years since launching in Denver, WWAC has helped over 20 women graduate and begin a career leading to lifelong self-sufficiency. Lives are being changed, both for the women and their children. Generational poverty is overcome, financial health achieved, and freedom from all assistance and reliance on others if alleviated. The impact created by the WE Scholar Program is life-altering and lifts families out of future poverty.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Luck is something that is caused by chance happening or good fortune, not hard work and dedication. Whether it is starting an organization, trying to find new funding, hiring staff, or developing programs; the focus should remain on hard work, dedication, perseverance, and patience. Continue to pursue goals with a drive that cannot be altered by any outside force and when you get knocked down, pick yourself up and keep going. Do not leave it up to luck or chance. It is up to you to make things happen.

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