When Marion Heard founded the Greater Bothell Parent Resource Center in April, one of her goals was to pay forward the help she received as a single mom.
Her program consists of a free dinner at Clover Leaf Rebekah Lodge 54 (10116 N.E. 185th St., Bothell) on the last Sunday of every month.
Guest speakers are typically on hand to share information about counseling, pre-paid legal services, low-income housing and other resources.
The center also provides “Love Care Packets” that include non-perishable food items such as rice, beans, evaporated milk and canned vegetables.
Heard has applied for grants to help support her program, but the funding has come out of her own pocket so far.
“We started off with basic spaghetti and water,” she said. “I’m investing here with a belief that the returns are going to be great.”
Most of the volunteers who help with the program come from Witness for Jesus Christian Church, where Heard’s husband, Willie, is a pastor. Additional assistance comes from the Northshore Family Center.
It’s not as though there aren’t already resource centers for those in need around the Northshore area. Hopelink and the Northshore Family Center, for example, are well-established in the community.
But the Parent Resource Center fills a different niche, offering dinner and resources at a time of the month when struggling families tend to be strapped.
Heard hasn’t forgotten how stressful things can get during those periods.
“I raised my son in a way in which we made ends meet,” she said. “It was challenging, but we made it work.
“I wasn’t taking public assistance or anything, but I saw the struggles.”
Heard raised her son while working full time as an administrative assistant at the University of Washington. She was living paycheck to paycheck, but earning enough money to be disqualified from government assistance.
Her ex-husband had abandoned the family.
Heard made ends meet with help from an older friend named Ethel, who all but adopted her as a daughter.
Ethel filled in whenever things got tight, providing food, rides, toys and other forms of support.
“What I learned from Ethel was her compassion,” Heard said. “She never wanted to see a child go without.
“One day I asked what I could do to repay her, and she told me that I should turn around and do something just like this for someone else once I get on my feet.”
Heard didn’t wait for things to turn around. She established a parent support group at her son’s day-care center and won a grant that paid for an outdoor safety mat at the facility.
It was her way of producing some good will of her own.
Heard still works full time as an administrative assistant — these days at Cascadia Community College — but other things about her life have changed.
She’s found a new husband, and her son is on his own — educated, employed and married with a newborn.
Heard also completed a family support certificate program at Edmonds Community College in 2003.
It was during that time that she began developing plans for a parent resource center as part of a class project.
“It was something I always had in me,” she said. “There is this passion I have for single parents. My instructor told me it wouldn’t go away until I did something with it. He was right.”
Five years later, Heard’s dream is taking off.
She has been applying for new grants to enhance the parent resource center, and is also fishing for potential interns at Cascadia.
“She seems to be pretty fired up about this,” Willie said. “It’s a high priority for her.”