Lighten Trauma in Families


Bright Endeavors’ grand opening celebration in the East Garfield Park neighborhood in Chicago this weekend left me feeling brighter about our interdependent future! Funding through Chicago’s Justice Advisory Council enabled this fledgling candle-making enterprise to find generous space for increased production and shipping of their soy-based candles with fragrances such as Rose & Vanilla, Sandalwood & Patchouli, and Holiday Citrus.

The brainchild of 2 female social entrepreneurs, in 2010 Bright Endeavors merged with New Moms, a non-profit located in the Austin community. New Moms (acquiring former Parenthesis Family Center of Oak Park in 2016) provides housing and family support to young women and their precious babes who cope with poverty and/or homelessness. Nearly 50 % of the moms are high school dropouts; 100% are trauma survivors.

The new spacious warehouse of Bright Endeavors includes loft offices to expand an Academic Coaching Program. Only 8% of single-mother students in Illinois finish an Associate degree within 6 years, compared to 60% of non-parenting students (according to Institute for Women’s Policy Research). Furthermore, 1 in 3 black women in college are single parents.

New Moms guides young women in finding economic mobility by teaching them basic job skills in the comprehensive program at Bright Endeavors. The 16-week paid program trains young mothers in positive work values while also helping them set personal and professional goals for sustainable employment. Each hand-poured candle comes with space for its candle-maker to sign her name under the words, “Created with pride.”

Maybe it was thinking of all the youngsters who will benefit from their moms’ ability to model both work and educational skillsets, but I recalled the children’s book, The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. I read this book to my children over and over, probably needing the message myself as a working mom with two precious babes. Chug, chug, chug…I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN. Aside from dolls depicted as “white” and the ageist reference to the “old, rusty engine” who is “too tired,” there is a timeless quality to Piper’s classic tale. Yes, I think I can __________. Each one of us needs goal setting, whether burned by trauma or not.

Each one of us is a pearl…what if we string our unique pearls together? What might we accomplish when we pull together?

Each child deserves possibilities to fulfill their ability potential. To realize this, kids need illuminating support from parents, teachers, and other co-regulators in their tender years. Kids (and parents) need others who believe in them, and model “I-know-you-can” attitudes.

100% of Bright Endeavors candle proceeds support the mission of empowerment for young families. These fragrant candles are sold at Whole Foods Market, but you might order some directly from Help some moms receive “I-know-I-can” skills for job markets this holiday season!

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

125. What new goals are you setting for yourself?

126. How do you finish this sentence? Yes, I think I can ___________.   

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. This is such a wonderful commentary — I always loved “The Little Engine that Could” and read it to my children!


  2. Thanks for this uplifting blog on hope for families! With all the frustrating and horrific events happening in the world, it is too easy to focus just on them and not find positivity in new businesses and programs like Bright Endeavors!


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