Ignite The SPARC

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Single-parent resource program connects families to the Jewish community.

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Chances are, if you’re a single parent, you are consumed by such thoughts as “How am I going to afford everything now that I’m a single parent,” “What am I going to do to entertain my kids all weekend,” “How in the world do I fill out these college scholarship applications” and, of course, the dreaded “What’s for dinner?”

These thoughts are probably keeping you up at night, away from the sleep you so desperately need now that you are “doing it all.”

Whether you have little ones at home or kids in college, single parenthood has its innate challenges, and sometimes you just need a little help.

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit has brought back an essential program for single Jewish parents in our community. SPARC (Single Parent Alliance & Resource Connection), a program under the umbrella of Federation’s Alliance for Jewish Education, was originally created in 1992 under the name Single Jewish Parents Network (SJPN). Due to budget cuts, that program was forced to close in 2009.

Fortunately, thanks to the support of private funding and a committed advisory committee, SPARC is igniting Jewish families once again.

SPARC is a network for single Jewish parents — divorced, widowed or never married — in Metro Detroit and their children of all ages that connects them to the Detroit Jewish community and all of its resources —and to one another.

With firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to have been a single parent, SPARC Coordinator Amy Newman says, “Being single parents has enough challenges; we want to make life easier for them.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASPARC recently reached out to the community via focus groups to discover what needs were specific to single parenthood that could be addressed. In response, staffers are creating broad programming to meet everybody’s needs.

“We really want to make ourselves available to parents with kids of all ages,” Newman says. “Even empty nesters and parents with kids in high school are still single parenting, and they have a unique set of needs. We meet families wherever they are in their age and stage of parenting.”

SPARC’s resource connection is the concierge that will connect single-parent Jewish families to resources available to them. For example, “Jewish Family Services (JFS) has an entire pro bono legal team,” says Newman. “People can make an appointment at JFS to become part of its system, and once they are in that network, there are so many things available to them. Many people are simply not aware of their options.”

Additional services available in the community include health and dental care, mental health services, domestic and substance abuse counseling, food, housing, clothing, Jewish education and camp scholarships, career development, financial advice, financial planning and more.

“There are all kinds of things you really need as a single parent. When I was a single parent, I didn’t even know these things existed so I didn’t take advantage of them,” Newman says. “We really hope to get the word out to people that we are here for them and, if we can’t help them, we will help them find what they need.”

SPARC hopes to empower single parents by providing them with the information, skills, resources and social opportunities to help them get back on track to once again provide for their families.

Building Community

Not only will SPARC connect people to services in the community, it also will connect single parents to other single parents and kids of single parents to other kids of single parents.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Kids want to be around other kids who are in the same social situation as they are,” Newman says. “When they are all in the same social dynamic, i.e., single parents, two homes, etc., there is a level of comfort that comes with that.”

SPARC is building a community of likeminded families to support one another and to create opportunities for social interaction as well. The program is using social media, focus groups and Jewish geography to get the word out about upcoming events, including its first event that took place March 3 at Detroit Kid City in Southfield, a mini-Detroit play city complete with an automotive factory, bank, barber shop, pizzeria, etc.

Lilah Glazer, 6, of Farmington Hills attended and was very busy working her way around “town.” She ordered people sandwiches, did the mail, went shopping and worked at the school. When one of her “customers” told her they didn’t have any money to pay for the sandwich she made for him, she promptly went to the bank and got some money so he could pay for his lunch. At 6, Lilah’s Jewish instincts kicked in to provide for somebody in need.

Her mother, Lisa Glazer, brought her and her sister Hannah, 4, to the event.

Danielle Sigler of Huntington Woods and her two daughters, Briyah, 4, and Maliyah, 7, were inspired to attend because, Danielle says, “It looked like there would be a lot of fun things for kids to do and friends to be made.”

Friends were made indeed. Laura Hirschhorn of Huntington Woods mentioned to Glazer how much fun her daughter, Abby, 3, was having with Hannah.

“We went to see what SPARC was all about, thinking it may be an avenue to meet other parents like myself,” Hirschhorn explains. “I thought the venue would be a great place, and it was.”

The second outing hosted by SPARC was held recently at the Barbara and Douglas Bloom Matzah Factory at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield.

SPARC’s creative team is planning regular events for families with kids of all ages and for parents only as well. Future events will include bowling and Shabbat dinners at local congregations and in people’s homes.

Lilah Glazer 6 FH Abby Hirschhorn 3 HWSPARC is available to all members of the Jewish community who are single parents, regardless of affiliation to a synagogue. The program staff can help families identify the best options for them with regard to synagogues, Jewish education, camps, youth groups and mitzvah projects, along with scholarship opportunities where they are needed.

“People are often hesitant to ask for a scholarship,” says Jeff Lasday, director of the Alliance for Jewish Education. “We advocate for them and help them to gain access to these opportunities that are available to them.”

A key focus of SPARC is to strengthen Jewish identity within the single-parent family.

“When people suddenly becomes single, they are in crisis mode,” Lasday says. “We are here to help them get through the challenges they face and help them to understand that they have a place in the Jewish community.”

Newman adds, “Parenting is hard enough even when you are married, so if there is anything we can do to help our single Jewish parents, that’s what we’re here for.”

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