Story by Roselle Tenorio. Photos by Jan Osborn.
Phillipa Williams has lived in Dallas since she was two. She spent her early years residing in South Dallas and then moved to Oak Cliff, proudly graduating from Carter High School in ‘86. She comes from four generations of residents of Frazier Courts, a low-income neighborhood southeast of Fair Park. A proud product of a single mother in the 1960s, Phillipa underscores, “which was an even more intense stereotype back then.” Luckily her mother was insulated by a circle of women, family and friends of support.
Two decades later, Phillipa found herself in a similar situation. “I had a son and divorced his father when he was two. Finding myself in dire circumstances, some people came to our rescue and made the difference for me and my son,” Phillipa says.
After receiving the support she deserved to raise her son, Phillipa led her life in a spirit of giving. She took on the role of Programs Director for Friendship-West Baptist Church, the premier social justice-focused community church in Southern Dallas, located right across from Carter High School. Phillipa was looking for the next step in her life when she asked God what she should do and what that next step looked like. Phillipa says, “I have always been passionate about empowering women in leadership and spiritual development.” It was that passion that led to her first step—starting a blog called ilooklikelove. She is most inspired by her two grandmothers, who were both writers. Phillipa shares that, “I consider it an honor to carry on their legacy and express some things they have not been able to achieve.” Phillipa chose the name “I Look Like Love” to represent the love of God and of a family. It resonates with her even more now because, looking back, her family included strangers who helped her as a single mother all those years ago. In 2015, Phillipa could clearly see that her blog could take another step and birth an actual program, bringing leadership and spiritual development to young mothers. Phillipa knew firsthand the experience of a young mother but she also describes it as a gap.“There are a lot of programs for families but not for young single mothers in South Dallas,” she says.
Phillipa was already mentoring young women through her blog but she wanted to do it meaningfully, hands-on, and full-time so she registered I Look Like Love as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Phillipa explains, “historically Dallas has high diaper insecurity rates and that is why I Look Like Love’s Diaper Days program was established.” I Look Like Love partners with Hope Supply Co. to supply a portion of the diapers and then partners with organizations for distribution days including: Cornerstone Church, Park South YMCA, Carter’s House, a regular South Dallas partner, and Casa View Christian Church, a new partner that held a drive on October 24th in which the car line for diapers was 1.3 miles long.
If your church or community organization is interested in partnering please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once the mother’s material needs are met they can stop worrying and start to focus on their own growth; that is where the Empower U mentoring program comes into play. “Empower U is not a traditional parenting skills class but instead caters to first time expecting mothers,” explains Phillipa. The curriculum for the program is affectionately named “How to Crack Your Sister Code” and it focuses on strategic planning and making first time mother’s dreams come true.
In regards to COVID-19 and its effect on the community of nonprofits serving southern Dallas, Phillipa says, “not trying to be an island will get us through this. The level of unity and camaraderie in South Dallas is unmatched. We get to see everyone grow together and that is very empowering particularly in a season where there is so much turmoil.” Phillipa notes that Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew and the State Fair of Texas have worked to bring nonprofits in the southern sector together with intention, and embraced the mutual sharing of resources. “During the summer, the MLK Center was closed so we invited Carter’s House, one of the nonprofits based in the center, to share our office space and partner on diaper days,” Phillipa shares. That is the kind of community support you will find most days in South Dallas. Last year I Look Like Love provided 100,000 diapers to the community, and as of October of this year, they are on track to distribute twice that. They have brought on more staff, increased the number of interns and part-time staff, increased their storage space, operations, and distribution to keep up with the growing need due to COVID-19.
While the diaper distribution grows, Phillipa is still focused on the mentoring side of her program.“We were getting ready to launch in March face-to-face but had to get ready to move to virtual and we graduated our first virtual class in the summer and began another new cohort on October 17,” she says. Since stay-at-home orders began, I Look Like Love’s focus has been targeted on encouraging young mothers who are feeling very vulnerable with so many uncertainties, including concern for exposure to the virus. Phillipa encourages everyone, asking, “be mindful of expecting mothers; check in on them; make sure they have the resources they need so they can stay safe and at the very least limit their exposure.” Phillipa’s heartfelt perspective on mental health and support for expecting mothers during this difficult pandemic and recession is deeply rooted in her own experience. “Many of them are doing motherhood but are unable to articulate what they are going through,” she says. “Moms are the heart of the family and mothers will typically say they are fine, but their anxiety first will be for their baby so if you can provide for that and lift that weight off then they can focus on themselves. Make sure you give them a soft place to fall and someone to talk to without judgement. There is so much pressure for mothers to get everything right. It is important to create circles of safety so they can ask questions and not be afraid of judgement.”
Phillipa encourages individuals, families, groups, and companies to organize diaper drives to gather their most-needed items, diapers in size 3-6 and diaper wipes. There is a toolkit on I Look Like Love’s website that will get you started on planning a fun event in the spirit of giving. I Look Like Love is also seeking people and companies to support the graduation gifts for the mothers of the Empower U six-week program, which includes a starter kit of diapers, wipes, onesies, socks, bottles, car seats, a gift valued at $450. To donate click here. Phillipa is always looking for volunteers and she recently started recruiting for a Giving Tuesday Diaper Day Event on Tuesday, December 1st from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Red Bird Mall. Email email@example.com to find out more.
Lastly, if you are an experienced mother, find time to reach out to new young mothers to have them catch their breath decompress and get some answers to things they don’t know, or volunteer as an Empower U mentor!