Inspired by her grandmother who raised three children as a single parent in the 1950s, Samantha Tradelius is making it her mission to help single mothers.
Nearly eight in 10 single-parent families are headed by a single mother and a third live in poverty, according to the US Census Bureau. So, Tradelius knows there are thousands of people across California counting on her to help get them ready for school.
"Backpacks are hard to buy. And mothers don't ask, so if we can provide a glimmer of hope, that's what we do," Tradelius said.
The Novato business owner directs a maze of community volunteers and first responders as they fill 5,000 backpacks with dozens of supplies.
The backpacks will go to the families of single mothers in the Bay Area, Sacramento and Los Angeles.
The annual backpack giveaway is part of Tradelius's 7-year-old nonprofit, called Sparkle.
"Sparkle is not only what it is inside — you feel good when you do good — but it's also what you gift when you give to someone else, that feeling of hope and help and assistance with no strings attached," she said.
Tradelius, who owns an insurance agency with her husband, started helping single mothers in 2003. She started by giving away holiday gift baskets.
Today, Samantha stores boxes of donations at her home as she and hundreds of volunteers expect to shower about 70 families with holiday gifts. The gifts include a holiday meal, gift cards, and often, necessities single parents have requested like socks and bed sheets.
"We're really able to relieve a burden of she'll be able to put a roof over their head and food on the table for children, but there's no extra money for Christmas," Tradelius explained.
Besides backpacks, Sparkle pays for children's enrichment activities from tutoring and technology to sports and music. The nonprofits supported 100 kids a year, with up to $50,000 in scholarships.
In addition, Tradelius supports single moms who plan to expand a business or start a new one. Her nonprofit offers short-term, interest-free loans paid back within three years.
Sydney James of Stay Sculpted in Danville received $10,000 to open a second location for body sculpting treatments.
James paid the money back in a year and a half, and she's grateful for Tradelius.
"Knowing that someone like her that I look up to so much believes in me, it helps me find the strength and grit in myself to keep going," said James.
And what keeps Tradelius going is the memory of her paternal grandmother: a single mother of three whose husband left her in the 1950s. Her grandmother serves as an inspiration for her service.
"She said, 'You have to tell my story because there are so many women just like me that never ask for help,'" Tradelius said.
So, for giving support and hope to single mothers and their families, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Samantha Tradelius.
Sparkle will be holding a fundraiser on Sunday: a big brunch in Novato at the Bill and Adele Jonas Center.
Also, this fall, Sparkle will begin accepting nominations for its holiday gift drive. They'll provide gifts for several dozen families throughout California.
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