HAPPY AWARDEE—Melanie Gefert-Azur, Bartko Foundation President; Tamiko Dawkins, award recipient and Carl Ellis Perkins, executive director Of Bartko Foundation. (Photo by Gail L. Manker)
At the age of 33, Aliquippa native Tamiko Dawkins, who had served in the United States Army, was determined to build a better life for her daughter. After a life filled with poverty, living in drug infested neighborhoods, the single mother set out on a journey to self-sufficiency.
Dawkins was this year’s recipient of the Irene O. Bartko Self Sufficiency Award, presented at the Bartko Foundation’s annual Irene’s Dream “Women in Deed Helping Women in Need” luncheon at the River’s Club on April 20.
“There was a time I wasn’t worthy to stand here today because of all the mistakes I was making in my life,” Dawkins said. “As my journey began I began to feel inspired to make a better life for my daughter. It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s about where you finish.”
The Bartko Foundation, a private non-profit organization, awards grants to minority mothers in the areas of education, transportation, housing and employment. In Dawkins case, that grant helped her and her daughter move in to a house the family is working toward purchasing.
“I can honestly say the feeling of gratitude I’m feeling right now is overwhelming,” Dawkins said. “I just thank God today because I know everything is because of him.”
Twenty-seven percent of single mothers live in poverty and minority single mothers are also at greater risk for involvement in abusive relationships. It is the mission of the Bartko Foundation’s mission to break the cycle of poverty and violence.
As of now, Dawkins has received a bachelor’s degree and has applied to master’s degree programs at two universities. She also works for the Veteran’s Administration.
“It’s changed my life tremendously. It made me want to work harder,” Dawkins said. “My major problem was unhealthy relationships, looking for love in all the wrong places and not loving myself.”
The Bartko Foundation’s assistance has also changed the outlook of Dawkins’ 17-year-old daughter Arnay Malcoul.
“It’s a great thing. I’m very proud of her. It’s very inspiring. It makes me want to work harder,” Malcoul said. “At first I was like I don’t want to go to college but I’ve been so inspired.”
In addition to Dawkins’ story, luncheon guests also heard from IOB Support Award honoree Elizabeth Murphy, who served as table sponsor chair for the event and has been a dedicated volunteer for the organization.
“I’ve observed how the organization has helped more and more women over the years,” Murphy said. “I’ve listened with awe to the struggles and achievements of the women we’ve heard from over the years. “
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