By John Biederman
July 23, 2000
When her marriage ended, Irene Brennick was left with two small children and little capacity to support her family. She received no child support, had no college education and no job skills in particular.
She received very little family support and didn't even own a car. She took on three part-time jobs, yet many bills remained unpaid, which became a stressful situation.
In desperation, Brennick dropped her pride and became a ``welfare mom.'' She sought out the aid of non-profit groups and took classes at California State University, Northridge Through perseverance she graduated in 1994 with honors.
Brennick now helps others.
RESIDENCE: Simi Valley Simi Valley (sē`mē, sĭm`ē), city (1990 pop. 100,217), Ventura co., SW Calif. in an oil, fruit, and farm region; laid out 1887, inc. 1969.
BORN AND RAISED IN: Stoneham , Mass. ; lived in Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif. ; inc. 1850. for a while before moving back home; returned to Los Angeles in 1988.
OCCUPATION: Director of Development for Bridge Focus, a non-profit group that helps provide families and single parents with alternatives to gangs, drugs and violence.
MARITAL STATUS: Single.
CHILDREN: Two daughters: Amanda, 15, and Jenna, 12.
VOLUNTEERISM: United Way; Day of Caring Committee for the San Fernando Valley founded the ``Goal Models'' program at James Monroe High School in North Hills, which recruits CEOs and other high-level executives to share success stories with children; mentors single parents on a one-on-one basis.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED?: ``I became involved with volunteering by being at the mercy of non-profits as a recipient. I had 11 agencies in the San Fernando Valley help me put my own life back together. A lot of my way of giving back is by going around and doing presentations.''
WHY DO YOU VOLUNTEER?: ``I feel we're supposed to volunteer. I think we're supposed to give back. What good is your life if you're not giving?''
BIGGEST DILEMMA: ``What I really like to do is motivate kids and give them hope for the future, and my major dilemma is fighting the negative messages that are out there. Some of the messages for kids out there, for instance in some of the music today, can be pretty negative. These messages are hard to fight, but I do it.''
MOST DIFFICULT DAILY TASK: ``There isn't any difficult task for me. I like challenge. I see everything as a challenge.''
FAVORITE DAILY TASK: ``I enjoy instilling hope in people. That makes me high. Another good thing about my job is that I'm able to recruit volunteers.''
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: ``I guess I'm disappointed when I run into people who don't give something back - I mostly feel bad for them. But I don't like to focus on the negatives.''
GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: ``Raising two daughters alone successfully.''
FAVORITE ACTIVITIES/HOBBIES: Singing, writing songs. ``I've written pop, I've written Christian songs, and even some country. I use the guitar to write the songs and I've sung in churches. Years ago I sang in bands, but not anymore. Now it's more of a hobby.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?: ``I would say that success is being content with what you have and sharing it with other people.''
WHO DO YOU RELY ON, AND WHO RELIES ON YOU MOST?: `` I rely on God and My kids rely on me most because I'm the only parent. I should mention, too, a friend, Patrick. He would do anything for me and the kids.''
ROLE MODELS: ``Mother Teresa and Princess Diana. It was very depressing that they died in the same week.''
GOALS FOR THE FUTURE: ``I'd love to be a national public speaker, motivating people to give. That's my dream. That's my greatest gift, public speaking. And another goal is to finish my book, which is about finding one's purpose in life.''
WHAT WOULD BE A PERFECT DAY FOR YOU:``Speaking to a million people. The more the merrier.''