In 2004, when Dr. Mary Edward became the widow of Rev. Eddie K. Edwards, founder of Joy of Jesus Ministries on the eastside of Detroit, she got a new vision for her life. Edwards was determined to keep her late husband’s legacy alive, as well as add to her own. Within one month, Widows with Wisdom was born. For 21 years, she worked side-by-side with Rev. Edwards reaching out to the Ravendale community and especially youths.
Now, her focus is to reach out with comfort and support to women such as herself who had to learn how to live alone without their spouses, thereby enhancing their own lives. In 2004, there were over 11 million widows in the U.S. AARP. The numbers are steadily increasing. Regrettably, widows appear to be an under-served population and a special needs group. Her vision for widows was further enhanced when she read up on some of the grim statistics:
Widowhood Creates Poverty with Poor Planning The average age that women become widows is only 59.4 years, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Financial Service Professionals. 80 percent of married men will die while married, and their wives are often unprepared. (Interestingly the study said that 70% of widows will fire their financial advisor, who likely did a poor job of preparing them for the financial realities they face as a widow.) While poverty rates in the U.S. between men and women are not significantly different, elderly women living alone are much more vulnerable. The rate of poverty among elderly widows is consistently three to four times higher than elderly married women.
For the past 14 years, Edwards has served as a volunteer life coach for widows, as well as other women, who have had to learn how to live alone without their spouses and especially become more financially independent. Many had no recent marketable skills, little education, and poor family support. They were headed for the welfare system and a reputation as a “poor weeping widow.” Some of these widows had minor children. Edwards has a strong desire for this not to happen to other widows and not to be repeated in the lives of their children. To this end, with the help of dozens of volunteers, Widows with Wisdom has conducted monthly meetings, bringing in professional legal and financial consultants, private consultation sessions, phone conferences, and internet/social media connections.
As a result of WWW counseling, many of the widows find their identity and develop their personal skills. Several have returned to school and graduated, and/ or started businesses, thereby enabling them to become more financially independent. Although the primary focus of WWW is on the well-being of widows, as an author and editor, Edwards has helped widows and others, including single mothers, blind and handicapped men and women write and market their books and legacies, thereby enhancing their incomes. After establishing this grassroots organization for a number of years with excellent results, WWW became a 501©3 organization in 2016. Their reach has extended to other states, including Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, and California. Because many of their widows are low-income, WWW does not charge for their services. Some of their widows are caregivers for their aged parents and they become emotional support to each other.
Prior to becoming a widow, Edwards worked side-by-side for 21 years with her husband as a community development activist. They were pioneers who helped restore a total (38-block) neighborhood on the eastside of Detroit called, “Ravendale,” for which they received a “Thousand Point of Light Award” from former President George H. W. Bush, Sr. Channel 56 and Channel 2 did a documentary about their work called, “A Neighborhood Redeemed.” It can be found in the University of Michigan Legacy Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition to their community development work, the Edwards are well known for their week-long summer camp for children.
Every year, from 1976-2002, 600 children attended their camp over an eight-week period. Many were from single parent homes. Dr. Edwards has written a book specifically for widows: “Transition: From Widowhood to Womanhood.” This book is designed to help widows work through the process and find their own individual destiny and purpose. It contains stories from widows who have made this healthy and wealth-building transition. These widows have become role products for their children and others along the widowhood journey by participating in WWW activities. Edwards has personal experience, a listening ear, and they have become a one-stop shop for those who had nowhere to turn for help in solving their problems after extensive searching. This year the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) became aware of the work Widows with Wisdom has consistently been doing for the past 14 years. AARP’s mission is to empower people to choose how they live as they age. Dr. Edwards has been nominated and selected by AARP as one of the 120 semi-finalists in their Purpose Prize Award contest. AARP has 1,300 chapters in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Although Dr. Edwards is not one of the five finalists for the prize money ($60,000) she says, “I am fulfilling my God-given destiny and purpose and a good name is better than silver and gold.” (Prov. 22:1) Membership to Widows with Wisdom is open and they are seeking other supporters. To find out more information or to join please visit their website at http://www.widowswithwisdom.org. Minister Mary Edward can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (313) 492-0149