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County Honors Donors to Single-Mothers Plan

Times Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday applauded the private sector for resuscitating a Los Angeles-area project whose goal of helping single mothers break a cycle of poverty and welfare dependency had been threatened by financial problems.

Five months ago, Project Self-Sufficiency, a nationwide pilot program seeking to combine the efforts of government and the private sector, faced funding problems in Los Angeles after corporations had failed to contribute money to assist 200 single mothers attending schools and vocational classes.

County officials issued a call for help, which resulted in $118,000 in donations from private donors and several area corporations. On Tuesday, those donors were honored by the supervisors, who said the pilot project had given new hope to many of its participants.

Of the 200 single mothers enrolled in the project, county officials said, 15 have landed full-time jobs and earn an average of nearly $6 an hour. More than 100 others are enrolled in school or are receiving on-the-job or classroom training. About 25% of the participants have dropped out of the project, a figure much lower than the 50% initially anticipated.

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County officials said the program has been so successful that they will ask supervisors for funding to continue the project for another seven months.

“It took us a long time to put all the pieces together,” said Carlos Jackson of the county’s Community Development Commission, which administers the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-directed project locally. “This is a very complex program aimed at a unique population.

“Now that it’s in place and running smoothly, we’d like to continue to help the women for several more months.”

In providing housing assistance, job training and job placement for single mothers, local project directors had planned for the private sector to assume a large role. Last September, the Community Development Commission sent out letters to Southern California’s 100 leading corporations outlining the project and its goals of helping single mothers make the transition from welfare dependency to productive employment.

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But the letters and follow-up telephone calls requesting donations of $1,000 to $5,000 failed to raise so much as a dollar. The county had hoped to meet an initial target of $40,000 to help participants meet the costs of child care, transportation and the unforeseen expenses that often contribute to high drop-out rates in such programs.

Donations Received

After the project’s financial problems were detailed in a Times story, several area corporations responded with donations ranging from $200 to $10,000. The United Way then contributed an $80,000 grant. A total of $108,000 was eventually contributed to go along with an earlier grant of $10,000 from the California Community Foundation.

“Helping single mothers means a very expensive one-time cost,” said Maryl Paquet, who oversees the project in the Hacienda Heights-La Puente area, one of three project sites in the county. “But if you’re willing to put up the money, you can succeed in getting them an education, getting them a job and getting them off welfare for good.

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“It means a large investment in these women. But if you compare it to the number of years they could be on welfare, it’s no expense at all.”

Margaret Padilla, a project participant who attended a luncheon Tuesday to honor the donors, said she is training to become a court reporter and eventually hopes to be a police officer.

“Project Self-Sufficiency has made a big difference in my life,” she said. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s going to make a difference for me and my children.”

The donors honored were United Way, Arco Foundation, Ahmanson Foundation, Pacific Bell Corp., Mattel Foundation, Lorimar Inc., Security Pacific Bank, Chevron U.S.A. Inc., Wilmore City Development Inc., California Community Foundation and an individual who asked to remain anonymous.

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