Former Teen Mom Helps Moms Get Back on Track With Housing and Supplies

Daily Point of Light # 7758 Feb 29, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Darlene Kearney. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

When Darlene Kearney was 18, she found out she was pregnant with her first child. Without the support she desperately needed, she faced steep challenges leading up to and after her daughter’s birth. With persistence and inner strength, she not only made it work but has since thrived as a full-time community health worker, a doula and a licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor.

Motivated by life experience, Darlene has been helping others get back on their feet for many years and recently opened a maternity home for women who are unhoused. She guides others through situations similar to hers with God’s Lovely Butterflies Maternity Home in hopes they will experience fewer obstacles with her support. Four mother-baby pairs or pregnant women experiencing being unhoused can stay for up to a year free of charge, and Darlene’s resource center helps any mom in need secure necessary supplies year-round.

Separate from the organization, this super mom helps out parents in other ways as well. She ensures kids start class prepared by hosting a yearly back-to-school event and supply drive, a task she has completed for nearly 16 years. Darlene now has three kids—ages 25, 20 and 15—and recently took custody of a 9-month-old from one of the mothers at the maternity home. For many in her community, the care she exhibits is a lifeline that helps them survive their most difficult days.

What inspired you to get started with this initiative?

I was a teenage mother and dropped out of school. I was staying with people just to get by. Two years later, I went back and got my high school diploma while I was working on my medical assistant certification to make sure I was able to take care of my child.

In 2010, God gave me a vision of butterflies and babies. I went to a women’s conference later that night where they talked about the butterfly’s transformation from the cocoon, and I understood. That’s when I came up with the idea.

I know what I went through as a single mother, and now I’m in a better position to take care of other mothers. I know how it is when you don’t have the support you need, and you have to decide whether to go buy diapers or go to school. I didn’t have a God’s Lovely Butterflies when I was pregnant. It’s the only maternity home in the area.

Darlene holds a 9-month-old baby from the maternity home.

Tell us about your volunteer role with God’s Lovely Butterflies.

When the ladies come in, I do assessments: what their goals are, what they need, etc. If they need a high school diploma or GED, I refer them to a school so they can get it. Or if they want to take trades… Every Sunday, I give them a calendar of events for the week. We offer classes and speakers. We have nurses and case managers who come in. And we teach self-esteem, job readiness skills and other things like that. I help with whatever they need to feel better and be independent, so when they leave the program, they have what they need to maintain the transition.

I work on resources and getting the assistance they need. A year comes fast, so I make sure that they’re able to get, for example, housing assistance. Sometimes the waiting list is more than a year. I make a lot of phone calls and research grants. And I look for ways to improve myself. I’m taking business classes and classes to help with grant writing. If I can be better, I can be better for them.

I also have a resource center where I give away diapers, wipes and other baby items free of charge. I work with a lot of nonprofits and other businesses. They call and say, “Hey, we had a mother that didn’t know she was pregnant and needs aid,’ so I get emergency items together and take them to the hospital.

What are your long-term plans or goals for the organization?

My ultimate goal is to have an apartment complex with 20 to 25 units for ladies who leave the maternity home or who are not a part of the maternity home. We have a waiting list, and I’m not able to serve everyone who needs help. We could use an apartment complex or a renovated old motel for transitional living.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

My reward is seeing the women leave in a better frame of mind than when they came, because sometimes they’re broken or discouraged. Sometimes they have trust issues. Being able to break that barrier is rewarding.

Tell us about future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about.

I’m partnering with March of Dimes for a community event and maternity health fair on March 9 where we’ll be giving away diapers and wipes. I’m excited to see more mothers and let them know that we’re here for them.

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?

We go through things in life, and sometimes we don’t know why. It’s important for us to use our gifts and talents to help others, even if it’s just talking to someone, encouraging them. It’s always good to get involved, and it makes you feel good.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

You can overcome, no matter you know what you’ve been through in life. I began to understand that going through the things that I went through was the Lord setting me for my purpose. I turned my story into being a blessing to others.

You go forward. You push on. If somebody says you can’t, you can. I’m not saying trials won’t come, but you learn how to be the triumph of the trials. Your best support in life is being a cheerleader for yourself. I can’t give up, because I have people looking to me for encouragement. That gives me hope.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Darlene? Find local volunteer opportunities.


Kristin Park