For decades, the share of children living with a single parent has been rising. The American family structure has changed due to a increase in divorce rates and unmarried women with children. Studies have shown that when compared to other countries, the United States has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households. With more than 80 percent of these children living with their mother only.
The disparity of income between single mothers and single fathers, means that women are 36 percent more likely to live in poverty than men. As poverty rates remain even higher for women of colour and for those with different abilities.
Founder, Philanthropist, Social Entrepreneur, and Mommy Influencer, Ray Nell Jones became a single mom at the age of 19. Raised in one of the poorest communities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jones experienced a number of struggles as a young woman, including becoming a victim of domestic violence and being homeless while pregnant. She understood too well the obstacles that single mothers like her face, “When I got pregnant with my first child I was a freshman in college and I was trying to figure out life,” she described. “I’ve experienced having my lights shut off while I was studying for a midterm exam and trying to feed my baby at the same time.”
Jones knew she needed to be the architect of her own solution to help other mothers when she witnessed a traumatic event that reaffirmed her conviction to pave the way for making meaningful change. “I witnessed a young lady in the summer of 2019 during rush hour traffic exiting her vehicle while her four kids watched her jump to her death,” remembered Jones. “That’s when a seed was planted and I knew I needed to take action to help mothers who, just like this mother, are suffering in silence and feel like they need help.”
Jones understands the emotional weight and psychological impact that being the sole provider of a household can have on single mothers. These silent struggles are the ones that are not often spoken about with the topic of motherhood. “I’ve also experienced scary thoughts of suicide because I felt like my child was better off without me. I felt like she deserved more than what I could offer. And I suffered in silence because of embarrassment, fear, shame and feeling not good enough,” Jones described.
The solution that helped her overcome her own obstacles years before was her pursuit of financial literacy and resourceful tactics, such as couponing. Jones acquired thousands of stockpile items such as feminine hygienic supplies, diapers, soap, laundry detergent amongst many other necessities for her and her family. Combining her resources with a conviction to make change, she launched the award-winning non-profit organization, The Allignment Chapter based in Pittsburgh in November 2019.
Helping to empower low-income single mothers everyday, the organization was quickly recognized for its efforts and honored as the 2020 ESSENCE Essential Hero for helping thousands of single mothers throughout the pandemic. Jones initially launched the The Allignment Chapter by using stockpile units to help fill the needs around her and giveaway packages of supplies to single mothers within her community. As the pandemic hit, her outreach and service expanded nationally to reach over 7,600 women, across 85 communities within 29 states.
Recognized by celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Lena Dunham, and more, the organization’s mission is to help provide economical and emotional relief and resources for low-income single mothers and their children. One of the resources offered to single mothers is a required financial literacy course hosted by Jones every Sunday for one hour. Learning how to save and grow their money, attendees are offered one on one coaching to help guide them through their current situation and build a better future. Leaning on experts from the community to offer their time, bankers, psychologists and more volunteer to help mothers who are coping with issues such as the anxiety of finding a job, navigating the unprecedented times of COVID or raising a child in their home with autism.
“Financial literacy is extremely critical because when you are born into poverty it is generational.” Jones shared. “I was not taught about budgeting my money, credit repair, home ownership, student loans, debt to income ratio. I had no idea how to save. I just knew how to pay bills and spend.”
Learning how to invest the money she earned from her full-time job into a cause that she is passionate about, propelled her to use social media to amplify this message to benefit more women. “When I invested in myself and started my nonprofit, I had no hesitation to post on social media and let people know that I have these items available for moms who are in need.” Jones’ first fundraiser through Facebook caught the attention of actress, Lena Dunham. “I had gotten a message from her that she wanted to partner with me and that she would match the donation. Lena created a donation website or link through Facebook and encouraged people to donate during the pandemic. She raised $20,000 for us.”
People from all walks of life recognizing the meaningful work that The Allignment Chapter has been doing and sharing in its mission, is the organization’s key ingredient for sustainment and growth. Most recently, Jones’ organization partnered with Tami Roman and together they were able to help almost 1,000 single mothers and their children who were impacted by the Texas storm.
Jones’ personal mission and goal is to continue to encourage all single mothers to “never lose faith” despite their circumstances and to never settle for less. She recognizes that her successes serve as inspiration to other mothers to keep going and for that she is grateful,
“I taught myself how to be a CEO of a nonprofit that started with zero dollars just products.”