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Mentor program supporting single parents in raising their kids

(WREX) — Liz Williams gave birth to her son at 18 years old.

A life changing experience at such a young age.

Williams wishes she had more help as a teenage mom looking for answers.

"I did have a support group, but at the time I didn't feel like it was very strong," Williams said.

The strongest part of her support system was her grandma Ruth.

She was there to help Williams figure out where to go on this new journey.

"She was the very first person to help without question, without judgement," Williams said.

"It didn't matter what your situation was or where you were headed in life she was there to help any way that she could."

Ruth's impact on Williams continues to this day.

In fact, she's providing the same guidance her grandmother gave her to people in looking for the same answers she was.

Williams helped start a group for single parents to reach out to for help in raising their kids.

The name of the group, appropriately, is named Because of Ruth.

It started with an urge from Williams to do something that would give her a sense of purpose in her life.

"I've always had a heart for kids and for families," Williams said.

"I feel like I would have benefited from something like this if I would have known it was available."

The volunteer organization's mission is to support parents through the mental, emotional and financial obstacles that come with raising a child.

That mission is achieved through one on one mentoring.

The group's program pairs parents with someone to help them face these day to day challenges.

One of those mentors is Renae Cussen, who is also the marketing director for the group.

Cussen believes now, more than ever, it's important to be there for people who need help.

"Having a kid home in isolation is really hard. It makes you feel really lonely," Cussen said.

Cussen has a two year old son at home with another child due in October.

She can identify directly with people seeking help because she is walking through the same issues of trying to explain how things are different to her son.

"He doesn't understand why we can't go see grandma and grandpa. He doesn't understand why he can't go to the library anymore. He misses his storytime teachers," Cussen said.

"For me it's really fulfilling because I am a parent and I have struggled with mental health my entire life so I love being able to be the one to help ease that burden."

COVID-19 has certainly been a big roadblock for parents to add to everything else on their plate.

Williams knows she and her team don't have all of the answers on how to handle a pandemic.

She is looking for answers herself on how to move forward with her family.

However, Williams is ready to walk alongside her mentees to find balance together.

"How you're approaching a situation may change day to day and that's okay. We're just here to help you through that and to let you know you're not alone in it and even from a distance were to support you and walk with you remotely," Williams said.

Click here to learn more about Because of Ruth and its mentorship program.

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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