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Local mom's struggles sparked nonprofit that helps thousands of women each year

Local mom's nonprofit has helped 37,000 women
Local mom's nonprofit has helped 37,000 women 04:26

TURTLE CREEK, Pa. (KDKA) -- Ray Nell Jones is a young mom of two. She's full of energy -- a real mover and a shaker. But her rough past shaped her and her intense struggles sparked the creation of her nonprofit that's helping thousands of women each year. 

She's small but mighty. Unboxing, stacking and boxing again, her sanctuary is a storage pod inside a massive warehouse in Turtle Creek. 

"Being born into poverty, you really can't rely on your family because they're already going through their own struggles, so you can't really be a burden to them, so I wanted to be independent on my own at 19."

But that all changed when she wound up pregnant in college and welcomed a baby girl. 

"It was very very tough for me, and I remember feeling like I was not good enough. I was not being a good enough mom, I never was around her enough," she said. 

Ray Nell caught the bus at 5 in the morning to take her baby from their house in Homewood to her cousin's house in Lawrenceville.

"I would get back on the bus and get to class by 8, do my homework before I caught the bus to Downtown, all the way from Oakland, work from 3-11, and then after that, I would go pick my daughter up and I wouldn't see her until midnight, and that went on for a long time."

It reached its worst when she got behind on bills and the electric company shut off her power just days before her big midterms. 

"I remember holding the light on my flip phone studying for my midterm while I was feeding her in the dark and at that point, I felt like I wanted to give up just being a mom," she said. 

In that moment, she decided she needed to dig in and think big.

"You know how people get ads in the mail and just throw them out? I would literally walk door to door and be like, 'can I have your ad?'" 

A knack for couponing to save money turned into a hobby.

"I would stack up my diapers, my laundry detergent, my Dawn dishwasher liquid, and I remember having all of those items -- it's just me and my baby here, I don't really need these items."

So she filled grocery bags and gave her extras to other moms at the bus stop. That continued for a while, until one day in 2019, when she heard about a mother of four who took her own life by jumping off the Homestead Grays Bridge. 

"I remember having those thoughts and when she did that in 2019, I started my nonprofit in 2019 and got my 501C3. I didn't want to see this anymore."

Ray Nell finally felt aligned with her passion, naming her nonprofit the Allignment Chapter -- a mission to advocate for other single moms, one box at a time. 

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"So what we do is we give them a box with 30 days' worth of supplies, laundry detergent, diapers, feminine hygiene products, so you can save that money, you don't have to go out to the store to buy it," she said. 

Moms find her on social media every day, and the blessings don't stop with just the box.

"You can take a six-week free financial literacy course with us. It's online, it's virtual, we teach you credit repair, how to coupon, save money, rebuild your resume to get a better job to make more money and also home ownership."  

Ray Nell also just organized a Boots for Mom drive, thanks to a massive donation from Stuart Weitzman. She's a firm believer in making sure struggling moms don't feel less than.

"I remember feeling like I couldn't buy brand items like Dawn, like Tide, like Gain, Palmer's lotion -- I always wanted moms to feel equal to middle-class moms," and not just equal, but supported during some of the hardest times of their lives. 

"I've seen that for years, I was the person always trying to reach out to organizations and I said, 'I want to be the hero I didn't have.'"

Ray Nell keeps track of all the boxes she sends and stays in touch with many of the moms.

She estimates her nonprofit's helped 37,000 moms so far across 33 different states. It's all possible thanks to donors who believe in her mission and her determination to make a difference.

You can learn more about the nonprofit online

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