Girlfriends Unlimited club offers mothers a helping hand

Need a girlfriend to chat with and find out what's going on in the community? Stuck at home all day, with no car and small children at home? A new local club may have the answer.

Still in its infancy, Girlfriends Unlimited, a program that helps mothers of pre-school aged children find friendship with one another, is an example of what local civic organizations are doing to help Bonita's Hispanic immigrant population.

From left: Sarah Paganes, of the Amigos Center, Yolanda Garcia, Rocio Merida, and Elisa Garcia, of United Way, enjoy a poolside girl's day.

Photo by LIANE EDIXON, Banner

From left: Sarah Paganes, of the Amigos Center, Yolanda Garcia, Rocio Merida, and Elisa Garcia, of United Way, enjoy a poolside girl's day.

Started by local volunteer Natalie Wismar with help of the Friends of the Salvation Army Bonita/Estero Auxiliary, and with volunteers from the United Way, the Amigos Center, the Literacy Council of Bonita Springs, and Good Wheels, the program gets the women and their children together once a week.

"I'm thrilled with it," Wismar said.

The group, which began earlier this year, has an optional Bible study that mothers can attend with Sarah Paganes from the Amigos Center. The Amigos Center is a Southwest Florida outreach council teaching Hispanic immigrants about Christ, through the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Currently, the group has about five to six women on average, and their children, who come regularly to the weekly activities. The activities range from taking the children for a swim at the YMCA's pool, while moms chat with one another and form friendships. Or other days they will go to the Art League of Bonita Springs and do arts and crafts, both children and mothers.

Sometimes, the group will even take a day to stay indoors at somebody's home and learn a unique craft or find out how to cook a native meal.

Jaqueline Zamarripa, right, cools her feet, while her tot, Vanessa, takes a seat near the waterfall.

Photo by LIANE EDIXON, Banner

Jaqueline Zamarripa, right, cools her feet, while her tot, Vanessa, takes a seat near the waterfall.

According to volunteer Elisa Garcia, volunteers also talk to the mothers and do Bible studies, which are optional. Discussions can range from what meals they prepare, or what doctors they recommend, or where they can obtain information for friends or family about assistance on anything from learning how to read or speak English, to where to employment assistance.

"Then we do activities for the kids, so that kids can spend time with other kids before they are old enough to go to school," Garcia said.

Last Wednesday, the group of mothers spent time relaxing on the patio at the YMCA, while mothers took turns watching the children play in the kiddy pool.

Garcia said they always ask the women to bring a friend or two, so that they can grow in the future. They hope to one day have guest speakers discussing different topics of importance to the women in the group.

"We like to be together," one young mother said. Garcia translated that many times the women's spouses work all day, and it's nice for them to get out of the house with the children and spend time with other families that would also normally be stuck in the house all day.

Maria Rodriguez said, "I like everything (about Girlfriends Unlimited)."

Maria Rodriguez, a Girlfriends Unlimited member, keeps a watchful eye while several children play in the kiddy pool at the YMCA.

Photo by LIANE EDIXON, Banner

Maria Rodriguez, a Girlfriends Unlimited member, keeps a watchful eye while several children play in the kiddy pool at the YMCA.

And who wouldn't, the girlfriends added. Each week, they are picked up by Good Wheels, which transports them to whatever activity was planned out for that week. After a few hours they are transported back from the activity, so that they are home in time to see their husbands getting off of work, or in time to pick up any older children they may have at the school bus stop.

"It's kind of a fellowship," Paganes said, between mothers.

Lula Holy, of the Literacy Council of Bonita Springs, Moms and Tots Program, visits with the Girlfriends Unlimited group often. According to Holy, she lets the mothers know about her program that teaches both moms and their tots how to read English.

"It's really beautiful; it's nice," Holy said.

In addition to giving Hispanic mothers information about the Literacy Council of Bonita Springs, she also gives them information about women's abuse shelters and local physician information so that they can share that information with family and friends.

Volunteers for Girlfriends Unlimited are still needed. For information on how to join or volunteer, call Natalie Wismar at 948-1907.

© 2006 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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