For Poor Women, Lessons In Handling Everyday Crises

From Quitting Drugs To Cutting Up Chicken

June 12, 1991|By Donna Weaver | Donna Weaver,Contributing writer

Last Thanksgiving, Wanda's 15-year-old daughter was gang-raped by a group of teen-age boys near her Severn home.

A few months later, her family was facing eviction from their Pioneer City apartment.

Soon after, Wanda started drinking again.

"Alcohol helped the pain," Marden, 33, recalled yesterday. "I was just so depressed. My daughter was raped, my husband was starting a new job and now my family was facing eviction. I was just ready to give up my kids to Social Services until I could find another place to live."

Depressed and confused, Wanda wanted help, but she didn't know where to get it.

Then she heard about Super Pantry, a new program sponsored by the Salvation Army of Northern Anne Arundel County that teaches low-income women self-sufficiency.

The six-week program -- which ended yesterday -- dramatically changed Wanda's attitude.

"This has been real good for me," said Wanda, who now lives in Freetown Village. "This place turned me around and changed my point of view."

That's exactly what Peggy Vick had in mind. As the director of the Salvation Army ofNorthern Anne Arundel County, Vick started the program at her Glen Burnie center because many low-income women lack the everyday skills to take care of their families.

"The program teaches women to be self-sufficient. It empowers them to do things," she said.

Program topics included budget management, parenting tips, job hunting skills,drug and alcohol abuse.

The weekly sessions began with a discussion, followed by the lecture and ended with a cooking lesson taught byMaryland Extension Service employees.

Vick decided to include weekly cooking lessons because she found that many women would rather buy fast food than cook.

"This is a fast-food society," she said. "Women just buy fast food when it's more economical and probably more nutritional to start from scratch."

The Salvation Army director then related a story she's seen too often, involving a woman who didn't know what to do with a whole chicken.

"The woman said, 'I don't know how to cut this thing,' " Vick recalled. "I just told her that youcan put it in the oven and the heat will break it up.

'Oh really?,' she said."

Vick is so pleased with progress of the five women who graduated yesterday that she plans to offer the program three times a year. The next one starts in September.

Graduates also will visit Vick every two months for follow-up sessions.

"We don't want them to go off somewhere and not know where they are," she said.

Wanda is one graduate looking forward to those sessions.

"Just talking about my problems has helped me," she said. "Before beginning thisprogram, the only thing I wanted to do was get a hold of those little boys who did this" to my daughter.

She's no longer drinking and her daughter is undergoing therapy.

"I'm happy and content," she said. "I feel like I can do anything."

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