According to the 2001 Census, the homeownership rate for single mothers was 49 percent. For minority women overall, that rate was only 35.5 percent.

The Bartko Foundation, a private non-profit organization, is working to change these statistics one woman at a time. With their mission of helping minority mothers obtain self-sufficiency, Bartko awards grants totaling nearly $150,000 every year.

BARTKO FOUNDATION—From left: Honorees Theresa Council, Jackie Dixon and Robin Ballard. (Photo by Erin Perry)

“Our desire was not to duplicate what was already being done,” said Melanie Gefert-Azur, president of Bartko’s board of directors. “Our foundation’s goal is to provide support for these women who fall through the cracks.”

Among the hundreds of women they’ve helped and the lives they’ve changed are the stories of Robin Ballard and Theresa Council, two women honored at this year’s Irene’s Dream Luncheon. The two women were recognized for their successful use of Bartko grants to obtain self-sufficiency.

“I am sincerely grateful for the financial support of The Bartko Foundation. Without their gift, my family would not be in the lovely home we reside in today. So many blessings came right behind each other that I was certain that it was all a very long, lovely dream. I’m still not sure that I’m fully awake,” Ballard said. “My family has been very happy in our new home. This blessing has provided us with a safe, energy efficient home where we are living happily, growing as a family and building equity; and yes, we have a dog.”

Four years ago, Ballard purchased a home in Garfield after working with the organization Open Hand Ministries to improve her credit score, live on a budget, increase her savings, and reduce her debt. A $15,000 grant from Bartko was the last piece the single mother of one needed to become a homeowner.

Council, a single mother of six who has been supported by the New Foundations Homeless Program, is now taking similar steps toward homeownership. Thanks to a $2,850 grant from Bartko, she was able to purchase a car to help her retain her position at Children’s Hospital and has recently celebrate five years clean from drug and alcohol addiction.

“I first came to New Foundations, a recovering addict with a dream of being a person that can and will make a difference in my life and the lives of others,” Council said. “The Bartko Foundation has reached out to me with support and guidance to the place where I intern am able to give back.”

Last year, Bartko provided assistance to 65 single minority mothers. Since their founding in 2007, the foundation has worked with partner social services organizations to fill voids, which might keep their clients from reaching self-sufficiency.

“I wholly believe in this foundation’s mission and purpose,” said Kezia Taylor, the event chair. “They seek to help a group who are severely disadvantaged and that group is minority mothers.”

Also recognized at the luncheon was Jackie Dixon, director of government relations for Giant Eagle, who has served as the public relations chair for the luncheon for the past two years. The recipient of the Irene O. Bartko Support Award also created of the luncheon’s theme, “Women in deed, helping women in need.”

“When you hear the stories of what they’ve helped women achieve, it gives you that chill feeling that you really know they’re making a difference,” said Vince Simms, master of ceremonies, who was recruited by Dixon for the past two years.

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