Fayetteville resident, Melaine Williams, can recall, even at the age of five, how her family’s life changed dramatically after her father died in a tragic boating accident. Her mother, Gertrude, suddenly a single parent teaching elementary school in Charleston, had to struggle on her teacher’s salary to make ends meet and support Melaine and her brother, Billy.
To try to keep pace with financial obligations, Gertrude took a second teaching job, working with home bound students after the regular school day was completed. Yet, there were still times when payments were late and the utilities were turned off. Melaine remembers hearing her mom on the phone pleading with a debt collector to not repossess the family car. During those years, Melaine often chose not to tell her mom when her shoes had holes in them or she needed new clothes. Before Melaine’s high school graduation, her mom wanted to buy her a new outfit for the ceremony, but Melaine insisted she wear a dress she already had. It was a stressful time, and Gertrude is convinced that she could not have made it through without the faithfulness of God.
To help earn money for college, Melaine, at the age of 17 and with her mother’s permission, joined the National Guard. Melaine was accepted as a student at the University of South Carolina, and her grandmother generously agreed to help pay for her college education (a big answer to prayer). She graduated with a B.A. in Political Science, where she was a stand-out student with an impressive list of accomplishments, including Dean’s List and Homecoming Queen. As a member of the ROTC Gamecock Battalion, she received her commission as 2nd Lieutenant to serve in the South Carolina National Guard.
After graduation, Melaine started the National Guard’s officer basic course. During an airborne physical, a tumor was discovered, and she learned she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Since she was on active duty, the military paid for her care, and after her successful treatment, she started the training course again, where she met her future husband, Rodney Williams. She and Rodney have three grown daughters.
Melaine returned to the University Of South Carolina School Of Law and received her J.D. in 1992. She worked as a trial attorney for the Department of Justice until 2002, when she moved to the Atlanta to accept a position as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. After serving in the National Guard for 34 years, Melaine retired in 2018 as Colonel with the District of Columbia National Guard where she holds the distinction of being the first African-American female Judge Advocate General to hold the rank of Colonel in the District of Columbia National Guard!
Through the years and her many successes, Melaine still remembered the stresses and strains her mom suffered as a single parent provider, and she vowed to start a non-profit to help other struggling single parents. After her daughters got older, Melaine decided the time was right. She is the founder and CEO of aParent Miracles Foundation (aPMF) which opened its doors in 2017.
According to Melaine, “We believe we can help single working custodial parents achieve their aspirations as a family…one miracle at a time. For a single custodial parent under the constant strain of caring for the financial, physical, and emotional needs of their children, a small, unexpected and meaningful act of kindness is really a small miracle and can go a very long way!”
aPMF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Atlanta that provides financial assistance to single parents with children, from infant through college age, that are screened and recommended by partnership agencies. The foundation’s impressive list of partnership agencies include the YWCA, Univision Affiliates in Kansas City and Minneapolis, Future MVPs (a high school football safety program), the military, universities, churches, and medical institutions, with support from the NFL Players Association Former Players, Atlanta Chapter. Usually financial help is between $50 – $500. Single parents may be divorced, widowed or in a season of singleness – with a spouse deployed in the military or incarcerated. aPMF is guided by faith based core values and does not discriminate by race, color, gender, sex, or religious beliefs.
Melaine’s eyes light up when she talks about the foundation’s “Miracle Moments” – the presentation of a basic necessity or financial help to their clients. The Miracle Moment is tailored to the needs of the family. For example one presentation to a single mom helped cover unpaid leave she had to take from her job, tutoring services for SAT preparation for her son and a food gift card to help her son celebrate his birthday. An NFL player known to the foundation even gave the son a call on his birthday. In another presentation, a single mom was given the funds she needed just in time to travel to receive a new kidney!
According to Melaine, “It makes me excited to give. I love giving. As the Bible says, ‘it is better to give than to receive.’ I get so much more joy out of giving and helping to make a positive change in the lives of single parents and their children. I can’t wait to see the excitement on their faces.”
In 2020, in recognition of their work, the aParent Miracles Foundation received the Rising In Community Excellence (R.I.C.E.) Award for the nonprofit of the year in Atlanta!
On November 4-6, the foundation is sponsoring its flagship fundraiser, “Beauty and the Beach” (BATB), near Miami, in Hollywood, Florida. BATB is a girlfriends’ weekend getaway designed to empower the everyday woman. aPMF is always looking for more agencies to partner with, and individual and corporate donors to help expand their outreach to struggling single, working, custodial parents. For more information on BATB or aParent Miracles Foundation, go to aparentmiracles.org.