Image: Delane Sims at work. (Photo courtesy of Ms. Sims, all rights reserved to her.)
Maimonides taught that the highest form of giving, of tzedakah, is to assist a person in becoming independent, so that they will not need charity. That might take the form of an interest-free loan for a business, or money for tuition, or a partnership in business.
There’s a program here in California that personifies Maimonides’ teaching. Steps to Success is transforming the lives of single mothers on welfare, helping them move off welfare and into employment and entrepreneurship. This transforms not only their lives but their children’s lives and the life of their communities.
The back story, as told by founder Delane Sims to the San Jose Mercury News:
“My husband was a veteran, an engineer, and we were looking at being a solid, middle-class family,” she said, sitting atop a luxurious red-leather bench in one of the salon’s treatment rooms. “Literally overnight I was plunged into being a single mom in poverty when my first husband suddenly became addicted to drugs. I felt like a turtle in the ocean with all my babies on my back. I had to find a way to survive for them. So I promised myself, if I make it through this period in my life and ever had my own business, I would do something for single mothers who are struggling.”
Fast forward to today: Delane is now the co-owner of Delane’s Natural Nail Care, a salon that provides manicures and pedicures that meet medical standards of care. The women who work at Delane’s are all on their way up: they are single moms whom Delane has mentored through cosmetology school and into a unique paid internship in her shop. They make a living wage while they learn how to run a business, how to balance parenthood and career, how to deal with the public, and things as basic as how to balance a checkbook. They benefit from networks of resources and relationships that Delane has built over the last 25 years.
As proof of this pudding, meet Myeshia Jefferson, who is co-owner of Delane’s Natural Nail Care. Myeshia is herself a graduate of Steps to Success, the single mother of a 5 year old boy. One of the great beauties of this program is that the women who rise through it become mentors for the next generation of success stories. Other Steps to Success grads have their own businesses in a variety of fields.
So now I invite you to participate with me in building Steps to Success. They have just launched a year-long effort to put the program on a firmer financial footing. Their initial very modest goal is to find 300 people who will contribute $35. The campaign page will tell you more about specifically how they will use your funds to lift up Steps to Success to serve more women.
Remember, this is the highest form of tzedakah, of charitable giving! You are making it possible for women with so much going against them to beat the odds and break out of generational poverty.
Another form of support, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area: contact Delane’s and make an appointment for a manicure or pedicure. Meet Delane and Myeshia, meet their employees, and get the safest, healthiest manicure available. (I originally met Delane when I went for a pedicure, to check them out for a diabetic friend.)
Some ways to learn more about Steps to Success:
“Holiness in the Nail Parlor” (on this blog)
Want to make my day? Contribute to Steps to Success via my fundraising page. Anyone who contributes $35 or more to their campaign by the end of January 2017 through that page will receive an hour of study with me via Skype. Your choice of text or topic!