Being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. It also certainly has its challenges, especially when one is taking on the responsibilities alone. Often times, single mothers feel tired, broken, and overwhelmed. At SMU, we want our members to find encouragement and support from others who are or have been in their current situation. We also want to provide resources to help equip moms with the tools to be successful despite their circumstances. Through our monthly meetings and events we are humbled and blessed to help empower single moms in our community.
Our mission at SMU is to provide spiritual, emotional, and professional support in order to encourage, equip, and empower single mothers in Virginia.
Through in-person meetings and an online community, SMU hopes to:
- Provide a safe, non-judgmental environment for single mothers to connect
- Promote a healthy balance between family, work, and social life
- Encourage health & wellness (for moms & kids)
- Teach on financial stability & planning
- Facilitate goal setting & follow-through
- Provide community & professional resources
- Support professional, emotional, & spiritual needs through networking, community-building, & prayer
With donations from our community of supporters, some of SMU’s outreach goals include:
- Continuing to provide dinner and childcare at all in-person meetings
- Providing budgeting support and credit repair assistance for members and expanding events to more cities around Virginia
- Hosting and sponsoring members for our Annual Single Mothers’ Retreat
- Providing emergency assistance to single mothers for basic needs such as utilities, housing, transportation and child care
- Sponsoring children of members for summer camps and/or summer activities
- Assisting member and their children with receiving family counseling and similar services
- Helping families in domestic violence situations with resources and the financial means to find safety
- Providing backpacks filled with supplies for students during our annual back-to-school event
- Assisting mothers with costs associated with extra-curricular activities for their children
- Providing Thanksgiving meal baskets and turkeys to our members
- Hosting our annual Christmas party with gifts for mothers and children
Founder & President
Andria Yamamoto, Founder & President
Andria Yamamoto is a happily married mother of 5 amazing children. She became pregnant at the age of 15 and had her first son at 16 in April of 2002. Andria faced many financial, spiritual and emotional hardships along the course of her journey and at 19 she had her second child. She found herself single once again and was determined from then on to not fall victim of the statistics and stereotypes that surrounded young single mothers. Through those many trials and tribulations Andria was able to use her lessons learned as a means to set high goals and work daily, weekly and monthly on achieving them.
Co-Founder & Vice President
Andrea Balarezo, Co-Founder & Vice President
Andrea Balarezo is happy wife to her husband Travis, a mother of 4 beautiful children, and a teacher/tutor turned homeschool mom. She became a single mom in March 2002 at the age of 16. With the support of her parents and by the grace of God, Andrea graduated from high school and went on to study Elementary Education at Penn State with her 2-year-old son in tow. Determined to fight against the statistics associated with being a teen mother and with a desire to aid others in doing the same, Andrea launched AllSingleMoms.com, a support and resource website catered toward young and single mothers (no longer active). In June 2007, Andrea lost her mother to cancer and soon after, her little brother came to live with her. She now found herself in college pursuing her degree, working to help provide for her family, and raising 2 children.
Renee DuPerow, Fundraising Coordinator
Renee DuPerow is happy mother of 3 beautiful children. She became a single mom in January 2004 at the age of 16 to an amazing daughter. With the support of her mom and sister, she was able to obtain her GED and attend trade school at night while working two jobs.
She has always had a passion to help others and has always put others’ needs in front of her own. She volunteered many years with the Ronald McDonald House Charities and always had a passion for non-profit work. She was a member of SMU for a couple of years before obtaining her role as Secretary and later Fundraising Coordinator. It brought her so much joy to see she wasn’t alone in the trials she faced. Her heart is all in this organization and she can’t wait to see the amazing things to come.
Children's Ministry Director
Shelah Upson, Children’s Ministry Director
Shelah Upson has two wonderful children – Jada and Jazzlyn. Her mother, who is her inspiration, raised 6 children in a single family household. Shelah was blessed with the gift of working with children at a young age. She’s been working as a professional chef and early childhood caregiver for over 15 years. Her passion and gift has always been working with children.
Working as the Children’s Ministry Director for SMU gives Shelah the opportunity to help the children develop more intellectually, socially, emotionally, and physically.
Michelle Starkey, Culpeper Director
Michelle had her first son when she was 23 and just after his 1st birthday, became a single mother. She realized the wellbeing and future of her child was 100% in her hands but knew she was not alone in this. She moved back to her parent’s house in Fairfax, where she was able to find support and stability. Michelle returned to school to finish her degree, where she studied Psychology at George Mason University. In the last year of her studies, Michelle became pregnant and again faced the trials of single motherhood now with two children under her care. However, she did not let this stop her. During her studies, she learned about wellbeing, what it takes to flourish, and a newfound passion and purpose. Michelle refuses to cave to societal statistics and expectations of what it means to be a single mother or a working professional. Her passion for helping others rediscover their personal power has led her to serve with SMU.
Pennie O'Brien, Culpeper Director
Pennie O’Brien has been married for 37 years and has 4 grown beautiful daughters and two wonderful grandchildren. While she was fortunate enough to be married and home with her children until the youngest went to pre-k, because of shiftwork she found herself home alone many times with 4 children under the age of 5 (the last 2 twins!).
She and her husband have been providing housing, emotional and financial support to one of their daughters and grandson through a very trying custody battle. Seeing all of the judicial bureaucracy and struggles her daughter has gone through is what prompted her to become involved and find a way to help other single moms, and their extended families, as it impacts them as well.