Franklin Park woman committed to making 'YoungLives' better
Being involved in YoungLives Three Rivers, an organization that helps pregnant teenagers and teen mothers in crisis, not only has changed Rebecca Mouganis' life, but the lives of her husband and five children, as well.
The Franklin Park woman immediately knew she wanted to help the ministry after meeting its director, Judy Pytlik, in 2009 at Christ Church at Grove Farm in Ohio Township.
Since then, she and her family have done whatever they can to support YoungLives.
As child-care coordinator, Mouganis' latest YoungLives project involves a fashion show fundraiser, “YL3Runway: Legacies Impacting Generations,” which is planned at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Courtyard Marriott in Cranberry Township.
The $35 cost includes a fashion show for men, women and children, light hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar, a silent auction, door prizes and a $500 Larrimor's clothing gift giveaway.
Two winners will receive the best-dressed awards and be given the opportunity to walk the runway with the models.
Funds raised will help the organization share the Gospel with teens in the Pittsburgh area who are facing challenges such as addiction, abuse and homelessness.
YoungLives helps them achieve independent living, provides one-on-one mentoring and gives them the tools they need to complete high school, find employment, and, when they are 18, secure safe and affordable housing.
Mouganis, 38, who has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Mercyhurst University, first worked with teen mothers while she was in college. When she began volunteering at YoungLives, she spent only a few hours a month helping while her children were younger. Her children, Manny, 13; Katie, 11; Nicholas, 9; Leah, 8; and Anna, 8, all are home-schooled.
As a volunteer, Mouganis drove the teen moms to YoungLives programs and helped with child care.
Now as child-care coordinator, Mouganis recruits, trains and schedules volunteers to provide child care for the children of teen mothers during the organization's programs.
Last August, Mouganis agreed to help plan the fall benefit even though only six weeks remained before the day of the event.
Still, she said, she and her husband, John, decided it was time to go “all in.”
For two years, she said, they had watched Pytlik work against every possible obstacle — lack of funding and volunteers and girls in crisis.
“Regardless of what she faced, Judy's commitment and love for the girls has never faltered. As my husband said, ‘Judy should have quit 100 times over the last two years. If she is willing to stick with it through all the difficulties, we need to get in and help her.' ”
Kelly Ross, fundraising chairman who works with Mouganis at YoungLives, said because of Mouganis' leadership, the fall event raised more money last year than the previous four years combined.
When she then took on the job of committee chairwoman, Ross said, Mouganis increased the volunteer base and is creating an advisory board to offer professional guidance to the organization as it continues to grow. She also has cooked for some of the organization's events and represented the ministry, speaking to other groups. Mouganis said her dream is to someday become a mentor to one of the mothers.
“Mouganis and her family have dedicated more effort to helping YoungLives than most people do to a full-time career,” Ross said.
Although she is busy raising her family, Mouganis said, she is able to find time to volunteer because of the support of her family as they help her however they can, pray for and encourage her, and sometimes endure life without clean laundry or groceries while Mouganis works on the computer or talks on her cellphone.
“It is not unusual to hear one of the kids say, ‘Hey Mom, I have and idea for YoungLives.' My husband routinely covers for me at home so I can attend meetings and events, has helped with childcare and used his own relationships and resources for the benefit of the ministry.
Currently, he is helping me develop an advisory board to increase the resources available to the ministry.”
Mouganis said being involved with YoungLives has been a blessing for her family.
“It has changed all of us. I see my children developing a heart for service, empathy for others, and an ability to recognize the needs of those around them and the realization that they can make an impact in someone else's life.”
While volunteering at YoungLives, Mouganis said she has been overwhelmed at God's goodness.
“No matter how hard you work to solicit new volunteers, donations or funding, so much is completely out of your control. I have been astounded and humbled at how God has blessed and prospered the work of our committee,” she said.
She also is humbled by the teen mothers who have a deep desire to do good things for their children and take advantage of the opportunities YoungLives offers them.
Ross said the organization would be “a shell of itself” without Mouganis' contributions, and the community is a much better place because of her efforts.
“Her dedication as a volunteer is changing families, one girl, one child at a time.”
Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.