For single mom Juana Hulin, the past few years have been filled with challenges. Hulin was diagnosed with stage four cancer in April 2015, just one month after she and her three daughters, ages 13, 12, and 9, had moved into a new home.
Unable to work due to surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, Hulin feared that she would get behind on her bills while waiting for her supplemental security income to be approved. It was then that Hulin heard about the Ark, a non-profit organization that serves low-income, working families in the Athens, Georgia, area.
The Ark helped Hulin with her expenses until she was back on her feet financially, but the organization's support did not end there. Hulin says she received a call last year on Mother's Day, telling her to stop by the Ark's offices to pick up a special gift.
"I'm a single mom, and sometimes as mothers, we don't worry about ourselves because we just want our kids to be OK," Hulin told TODAY Parents, explaining that when she went to the Ark, she was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a handwritten card, both provided by an anonymous donor.
"It brought tears to my eyes because the thought of someone thinking of you on Mother's Day who doesn't even know you — it just really warmed my heart and lifted my spirits," said Hulin.
Stephanie Cockfield is financial education director at the Ark, and says that Hulin received a gift as a part of the organization's Adopt-a-Mom program. Now in its fourth year, the program provides flowers and a card to single moms and moms in nursing homes.
"Adopt-a-Mom got started based on us wanting to meet a need in the community that we didn't see was being met," said Cockfield. "The majority of people that we help are single, working moms and we thought, 'What can we do to better serve them and also recognize them for what they're doing?'"
For a $25 donation, sponsors can choose the name of the mom they wish to adopt from a list found on the Ark's website. Cockfield says local sponsors donate flowers and cards for the moms, allowing the Ark to place the entire donated amount into a single mothers' fund that is used throughout the year to help moms in need with their financial difficulties.
"It's helping a mother celebrate Mother's Day," explained Cockfield, "but it's also helping moms throughout the year. What we're about is empowering people and wanting them to know how special they are. It takes a lot to come into an agency and ask for assistance...and that tugs at our hearts and makes us want to let them know we see what they're doing and we want to show them they are not alone."
Of the nearly 220 moms on the Adopt-a-Mom list this year, more than 130 have been adopted by donors. Cockfield says the organization hopes to have the entire list adopted by May 10, the deadline for adoptions.
Hulin says she hopes to see all of the moms in her community adopted this year, as she knows firsthand how much such a small gesture can mean to a struggling, single mother.
"You don't know what someone else is dealing with," said Hulin. "You don't know if they have anybody to even think of them. And for the Ark to do this — I just love it so much."