COLUMBIA — Asia Johnson wanted to meet new people and become involved in her community.
In April, Johnson spotted a notice in the newspaper about a faith-based organization called The Caring People, which helps single moms through support groups.
Now, Johnson and her 3-year-old daughter, Zhia, return to a group near her home in Boonville each Tuesday.
"They're complete strangers, but they're full of love," she said.
Although the overall goal is to provide a Christian-based outreach to single mothers, the relationships forged in meetings help the single mothers gain a positive perspective of themselves.
"There's tons of single moms out there and not a lot of resources that focus on this aspect of their life," said Karen Sinn, the organization's field representative.
The Caring People will hold a public fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Stoney Creek Inn, 2601 S. Providence Road, with a dinner and a motivational program.
The money raised at the event will go toward training programs, care group events and public awareness about the organization's presence in Columbia.
Once a single mother joins, she and her children can attend care group meetings every week. At the meetings, children are supervised by caregivers, and the women talk about problems they've been facing, questions they want answered and their faith.
Each group meeting has four to five group leaders called "caring women" and anywhere between 10 and 20 single moms.
The groups begin with a five-week curriculum, and then the members of the group decide what they want to learn, Sinn said. They might work on lessons such as budgeting and financing and forgiveness.
"There's a lot of stuff in our lives to forgive," Sinn said.
The Caring People was founded by JoDee and Peter Herschend, co-founders of Herschend Family Entertainment.
Since 2002 more than 300 women have attended training programs to lead group meetings. It was introduced to Columbia in August 2011, and more than 60 women in the area have been trained since then, Sinn said.
Carmen Jones leads the group in Boonville, which doesn't associate with a particular church or promote particular churches to the single mothers who attend the weekly meetings.
"When we feel better about ourselves, we do better," Jones said.
The organization also hosts "celebration" events quarterly that shift its focus from the single mothers to the children, depending on the event. The adults may have a spa day, for example, and the children can be coached to perform a Christmas play.
Sinn said she really believes that "helping to take care of the mom is one of the best things you can do for the children."
Reservations for the fundraiser can be made by calling 417-334-0131.