Lytia Brock
Lytia Brock

Lytia Brock had a plan for her life. But like a lot of single mothers, the odds were against her.

Her most basic problem was reliable transportation. She couldn’t get to her job or school without it.

Then she found out about the Bartko Foundation. Their mission is to help single, minority mothers through small, targeted grants that help fill gaps in education, transportation, housing and employment.

It made a big difference in Brock’s life.

“I needed something better able to accommodate myself and two daughters,” says Brock. “I was able to receive a dream car — a Dodge Intrepid. I went to the dealership, picked out the car, and they (the Bartko Foundation) gave me the total amount to purchase the car. It was $5,600 dollars.”

That dependable transportation has made so many other things possible.

“It helped me open other doors,” she says. “I was able to get a better job, do my certifications and become a life coach.” She was also able to spread the word in her parenting support group, and now “other women have been blessed with the grants.”

A family of one adult, infant and preschooler needs $49,504 annually in order to be considered self-sufficient, according to the Pennsylvania Self-Sufficiency Standard. But families headed by women with preschool-aged children are more likely to be poor, due to childcare costs and the difficulty in finishing school. Among families headed by single mothers in Pittsburgh, it’s estimated that four out of 10 live in poverty.

As far as education goes, a little bit of money can go a long way.

“Some of the women are already in school and have searched for money for tuition, books, maybe a laptop,” says Carl Perkins, the nonprofit Bartko Foundation’s executive director. “Suppose they come up a little short. They’d make an application to us and we’d decide if we want to fill in that little gap.”

The average grant is about $3,000. They’ve budgeted about $40,000 to spend for the rest of this year.

The Bartko Foundation was formed in 2003 as a tribute to Irene and Ted Bartko, and is primarily run by their children and families. Over the years, the foundation has helped about 700 single, minority women get on the path to self-sufficiency. They generally find grantees through referrals from a long list of partner organizations.

Often these organizations — including other nonprofits, banks, social service programs and churches — are already helping these same women, and see that with just a bit more help their hard work can lead to self-sufficiency and success.

“What we try to do,” says Perkins, “is collaborate with everybody to help fill in the gaps.”

Want to help? Their primary fundraiser is this Saturday, April 21. The 12th Annual Irene’s Dream Luncheon & Boutique Shopping event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairmont Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife,...