As a social worker for many years, I encountered a lot of people who felt that society owed them something. Most felt that their race automatically determined the level of debt owed them while others felt that their birthright was the determining factor. I also encountered those who refused to allow their circumstances, race or any other factor to dictate their level of achievement and they worked hard to pursue their dreams; dreams that seemed unattainable.
Linda Branch understands what a strong work ethic is all about because hard work was instilled in her as a young child. As the first African-American director of the AAA Crisis Pregnancy Center sponsored by Operation Blessing of Fayetteville, Branch saw a need and was determined to fulfill that need. Pregnant mothers would come to the center to receive free items without having to contribute anything for them. Branch felt that if the mothers were able to earn those same items they would appreciate them more. The "Earn While You Learn" program was created in 2005 as a way to give pregnant mothers the opportunity to earn the items needed for their babies. Branch now operates the program as a part her ministry nonprofit organization, C.O.R.A.S (www.corasnc.org).
The Earn While You Learn program's and goals are to empower pregnant mothers to become self-sufficient, to change hopelessness into hopefulness, and to provide "mommy dollars" to purchase necessary items. Participants are screened and accepted based on their specific needs. They attend an eight week training program that meets twice a week for two hours each day. The free program consists of approximately 32 hours of instruction on understanding  pregnancy, labor and delivery, proper care of a baby, CPR, finances, career planning, sex education and business ownership. A participant can earn up to $200 in "mommy dollars" that can be used to buy new items from the Mommy Store. The store is stocked with new clothes for newborns- 5T, baby care items and items that a mother can use. At the end of the program the participants take a 200-question test on all the material covered during their sessions and prizes are given to the top three scorers in the class. Fathers are encouraged to attend the class to gain valuable information and to be supportive.
Branch stated that one of the highlights of the program for her is the graduation banquet for the participants and their families. All the items that the young ladies purchase are on display for everyone to see. The Sharing Hearts Women's Ministry of Mount Carmel Church has partnered with  Branch to host the banquet. Whenever possible,  Branch tries to provide one big item (i.e. crib or car seat) for each participant. She relies on the generosity of donors to supply those items and her program is always in need of new clothing, cribs, car seats and very gently used items to stock the Mommy Store. The program has gained the attention and support of various churches in the community, the Junior League of Fayetteville, Wal-Mart and several community leaders including Mayor Tony Chavonne and Councilman Bobby Hurst. Branch recently received recognition from the mayor for outstanding community work.
Branch is so passionate about her program because she's providing an alternative to abortion and providing ways for young ladies to regain their self-esteem. "I don't ever want anyone involved with this program to feel like they are nothing. Their babies are a gift from God and they need to know how special they are. I want to make sure the young mothers (and fathers) know that they can do whatever they put their minds to."
For more information about how to make a tax-deductible donation to this program or to volunteer, please call 910-797-4918 or email Linda Branch at skyhawk357@aol.com  


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