In October 2005, Jody Boyd lost a childhood friend, Michelle Singleton, to breast cancer after a 15-month battle. Singleton, a single mom with four children, was only 32 when she passed away. Boyd was so moved by Singleton’s struggle and subsequent death, that she founded The Singletons, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing “strength, hope and community to single-parent families battling cancer.” We asked Boyd, who serves as the nonprofit’s executive director, to tell us about the organization that now serves about 50 families and recently opened a community center in Phoenix.
What are some of the reasons you founded The Singletons?
Michelle was a struggling single mom, but she was also a hard worker. She had just purchased her first home when she was diagnosed and the bills still had to be paid, mortgage and the electric bill and all of that. The kids still needed dinners and activities and fun and it just wasn’t possible. When I started making phone calls to the big organizations looking for resources, I was told that there was nothing to help with the day-to-day needs for those going through cancer treatment.
How did you get started?
At first, a group of friends and I called an oncologist and we were able to find four candidates – single moms battling cancer – and we picked one and paid her co-pays and sent dinner to the house when she had chemo. There was no structure. We were just honoring our friend, Michelle. That mom passed after six months and at that time I had no experience with nonprofits and I learned what a 501 (c) (3) was and kind of navigated from there. I’m very grateful that it has evolved and the way the community has embraced us even though we’re just a small organization.
How did you make the community center a reality?
Our first board said that we should have a community center, a place where these families can leave cancer at the door, be able to participate in our core programs, pick up necessities and family meals, but also give them a space where they can find some relief and joy. The kids need to have fun, positive memories created for them. In January 2020, of all times, we finally took the leap and purchased a building and we got through the demo and then the building sat here for a year and a half… We moved in here on December 1. We had our very first in-person event this Mother’s Day with craft stations and breakfast and a magician. The vision that we had all those years ago is finally coming to life.
Can you reflect on how rewarding it is to do this kind of work?
Oh, I’m over the moon at this point. It’s very challenging at times and there are sad days. We lost a mom earlier this week and it’s hard, but at the same time I know that we brought her and her children a lot of joy during a very difficult time, the worst time in their lives, so I’m very proud. When you get families in one room together and watch how happy they are, it’s worth every moment of challenge.
What kind of volunteer opportunities do you have open to the community?
We prepare meal kits for the families every month. We also have our bare necessities program, which is restocking the homes with essential supplies like laundry detergent, toilet paper and paper towels. We look to the community to host a drive or have volunteers come in and pack the bags that go out to the families. Also, on the third Saturday of every month, [the moms] who feel up to it can pick up the bags and if they want to stick around, we have crafts and snacks and fun activities. We have volunteers spearheading and putting that all together. We have a lot of opportunities for volunteers.