Shelter From the Rain, a non-profit that supports single mothers in Savannah, is celebrating the holidays with their annual show, "A Christmas Tradition," in partnership with the Savannah Theatre on Dec. 3.
“This is our 8th annual Christmas Tradition show with Savannah Theater, and it's our biggest annual fundraiser that funds the programs that we offer to single moms and their children,” said Jennifer Graham, executive director and founder of Shelter From the Rain.
For Graham, starting the organization had a personal motivation. After becoming a mom at 16 years old, she felt the overwhelming support from her parents and community were crucial to her future success.
“Having people who believe in you and remind you that you're not alone—their confidence in me, their consistent support while raising my son—is what helped me finish high school—that helped me go to college and get a job and accomplish other things,” said Graham.
Established in 2010, Shelter From the Rain provides food, clothing, baby supplies and mentorship to single mothers in their journey. Over the years, Graham has created a community that supports and uplifts single mothers to reach their goals and take care of their families.
According to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, there are 10.9 million single-parent households in the United States, and 80 percent of those families are led by a mother. According to the Coastal Georgia Indicator Coalition, 40 percent of the households in Chatham County are single-parent households.
“Everything that we're doing is meeting a need. We started this because we are passionate about single moms, but it is a huge need and something that people should support because almost half of the households in Chatham County are single parent-led households,” said Graham.
Though Shelter From the Rain is not a physical shelter, they offer many outreach programs that support single mothers and their families. JaQuilla Perry learned about the program and its resources through Mia Mance, an advisory board member of the organization. For Perry, Shelter From the Rain has had a positive impact on her life.
“It's very much a needed program. I'm glad to be here. I have grown in financial literacy. I have grown in confidence as a mother. I have more knowledge of having different outlets that I can reach out to to help me with some of the things that someone that I know may need,” said Perry, who joined the program in March 2023.
“They provide people who are knowledgeable in life skills. They give us what we need to thrive as parents and as people in general. Some things I would not have known had I not been in the program; some things I probably wouldn't have benefited from until later down the line,” said Perry.
Through education, mentorship, personal and professional development, home ownership, health, and wellness, Shelter From the Rain has been building a community of strong and economically independent single mothers.
For Perry, the Mothers with Mentors mentorship program is a shining resource and one that she has found impactful as she navigates stability for her family.
“I don't know of any support group for single moms who've been meeting as consistently as us for as many years as us,” said Graham.
The Mothers with Mentors mentorship program is a support group that gives mothers one-on-one guidance from a mentor in their efforts to reach positive goals. This mentorship program is designed to meet the additional needs of single parents and their families through a structured system of one-on-one assistance.
Perry has accomplished many things through the mentorship program, including becoming certified to sell insurance and completing courses to learn Spanish.
“This program not only helps me, but it also helps my baby. When she saw me studying to sell insurance, she picked up on it. When she came home, she would say, 'Mommy, I got homework. I need to study.' Children mimic behavior,” said Perry.
The upcoming show "A Christmas Tradition," at the Savannah Theatre helps raise funds for Shelter From the Rain's mentorship program and many other resources. The variety show is family-friendly and free for single mothers and refugee families. It will feature dancing reindeer, Santa, and his elves, along with an award-winning cast of singers and a live band performing all the classic Christmas favorites. The show also features videos of the moms and their accomplishments throughout the year.
“There's so many parts that I enjoy. I think personally, I love seeing the videos of our families, our moms, and the accomplishments of our mom, because every year that's new. The moms already have greatness inside of them, but they just need a little bit of help to reach their goals,” said Graham.
Year-round, Shelter From the Rain supports single mothers, and the annual Christmas show is one way to celebrate their wonderful accomplishments.
The Savannah Theatre will perform "A Christmas Tradition" on Dec. 3 at 7p.m. For more information about the upcoming show and to purchase tickets, visit: www.eventbrite.com.