Monica Peabody is the proud mother of an incredible daughter born in 1990. A single mother shortly after her daughter’s birth, she got to experience our society’s lack of support and disrespect for single mothers first hand. A committed breast-feeder, Monica was made to feel even that was an act of defiance by many of those around her.
Raising a child during the passage of welfare reform made an avid activist of Monica. She joined the policy committee of the Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition (WROC) when her daughter was a preschooler and they began to protest and lobby to end poverty. When she moved to Olympia from Seattle in 1995, she was shocked to discover there was no welfare rights organization. After multiple conversations with parents who were being told they had to quit college and go find low-wage work, they started organizing and held their first welfare rights meeting in Olympia in 1997.
Monica accepted a VISTA position with WROC in 1998 so she could quit cleaning houses and organize full time. Although the VISTA stipend is considered poverty wages, it was more than twice her welfare grant. What’s unbelievable is that a welfare grant is smaller today than hers was 20 years ago. Watching more and more families falling into poverty and being disregarded by our society is heartbreaking, yet makes the work toward building resistance all the more crucial.
Monica also plays and teaches banjo and is a member of the Oly Star Courier Bicycle Collective.
Community Jobs-Office Assistant and Book Keeper
Laura Studebaker is the mother of two wonderful, creative school aged children. She discovered POWER soon after moving to Olympia WA from Chicago, in spring of
2009. She was thrilled to find a welfare rights organization that shared many of her beliefs
regarding parenting and low income organizing. While living in Chicago as young single low income mama she would dream of finding and being a part of an organization that did welfare rights work and values motherhood.
Laura has worked with POWER since September 2010 and has worn many hats at POWER in that time as a workstudy student for two years doing office work, advoacy and out reach. She was a board member through 2012, and has been POWER’s ongoing book keeper since 2011. Currently she is doing part of a community jobs placement for POWER. And feels blessed being able to do work she cares about while in that program. As a mother she deeply appreciates being a part of a workplace that is welcoming of children and sensitive to the needs of parents.
Laura graduated from Evergreen in 2012 with a focus in social justice and human services. Since that time she has strengthened her advocacy skills, working as an advocate for Safeplace and a doula with the Birth Attendants: Prison Doula Project. Her work has been fueled through a belief that families and communities are strongest when parents are well supported and able to care for their own children to the best of their abilities, She believes strongly that everyone who wants to has the innate strength and right to parent and that with adequate support anyone with the desire to do so can develop the tools to be a great parent regardless of income or living situation.
She is grateful for the knowledge, empowerment, and encouragement she received from POWER members and advocates while navigating Washington’s welfare system. She has learned a wealth of knowledge and the “system” while self-advocating and advocating for others while working for POWER.
Shalonda James was born in South Carolina but moved to Olympia, WA at the age of 7. She attended high school in the Lacey, WA area and then earned her BA degree in Social Services at Central Washington University. It was her time spent at CWU, that she realized she enjoyed volunteering with groups and committees that fought for the end of oppression and social justice such as the Black Student Union and The Social Network.
Shalonda enjoys giving back to the community and fighting for social equality. She enjoys the empowerment and outreach advocacy that POWER serves and is excited about her future works and involvement with POWER. She has always had a strong passion for helping others and her thirst of knowledge of the functions of society concerning welfare economic rights has allowed her to value her time thus far at POWER. Being a single mother living on government assistance herself, these issues and advocacy outreaches hit home for Shalonda because she can relate to many of the issues and circumstances that she is encountered with and is dedicated to help families find their voice within a system of unequal opportunity.
Sierra Brown is a senior at The Evergreen State College where she studies political economy and community organizing. She first became involved with homeless advocacy in 2013 as an intern at Out of the Woods family transitional housing shelter.
Since beginning her time at POWER, Sierra has filled many different roles as volunteer, intern, board member, and staff. Sierra was the legislative intern for POWER during the 2014 legislative session, where she met weekly with Welfare Advocates Group lobbyists. In May and June, Sierra worked as an outreach staff to complete a Rural County Needs Assessment of social services for the Thurston County Home Consortium. Sierra is currently the outreach coordinator for POWER through the work study program at Evergreen.