SOUTH TAMPA - Sarah Kunkle grew up without a mother.
Now the 27-year-old is living at Alpha House of Tampa learning to be a good one to her two children through the nonprofit's Parents As Teachers Center
Alpha House offers homeless pregnant women and mothers with young children safe housing and help to become self-sufficient and responsible parents. Its Parents as Teachers (PAT) program is a child development program to increase parents' knowledge of early child development and improve their parenting skills.
Kunkle spoke at Alpha House's recent dedication of the PAT center as part of its facility 201 S. Tampania Ave.
"I came not for a better life for myself but for my children," said Kunkle, who has a 6-month-old, Essence, living with her at the center. She also has 2-year-old named Blessing, 2, in state care, and hopes to be reunited with her soon.
"A lot of positive people have taught me how me how to be good mother," she added.
The PAT Center includes three rooms for meetings and play, furniture, toys and books as well as the Alpha Academy, a classroom for parenting workshops, book club and other activities for mother and baby.
The PAT program offers one-on-one visits with a parent educator and the parent with children.
Donna Lopez , Alpha House's senior parent educator, said that together they can celebrate successes in the child's development. The educator also can refer the mother to other agencies if special evaluation or care is needed for a specific concern such as needing a speech therapist.
With the new center, "they don't have to wait for an appointment; they can just pop in" for an immediate concern, whether it be a bug bite or how to mix a formula, Lopez said.
The new center was funded by Children's Board of Hillsborough County and support from the Mary Alphonse Bradley Fund. In kind design services were donated by Cynthia Keenan of CK Designs and Scott Schershel of Interior Spaces.
"Parenting doesn't come natural for some people" and many grew up without guidance and have little in a support or assistance.
That's why Kunkle said she is there: She wants better for her children.
"I will give them a different life than mine," she told about 75 guests who toured the new center following the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
To get involved:
Alpha House offers free Lunch and Learn programs monthly from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with the next ones set for June 12, July 11 and Aug. 8. For information and reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (813) 875-2024.