Mesa grandmother receives support from Valley nonprofit

Duet, a Phoenix-based nonprofit, assisted Melba Williams when she needed help raising her grandchildren. (Photo/Frankie Wheeler)

Nothing about Mesa resident Melba Williams is conventional. From her unconventional family to her nickname, Gria, this 65-year-old grandmother of two walks proudly in her space.

Eight years ago, Ms. Williams and her husband found themselves stepping up to care full time for their granddaughter, Mia.

“You don’t think about it, you just do it,” Ms. Williams said.

She and her husband also cared for another granddaughter, Lillith.

“I knew what I had to do,” Ms. Williams said.

She left a job as bus monitor for special education students with Mesa Unified School District – a job she said she loved – to focus her attention on raising her granddaughters.

“I couldn’t fix all the cracks, but I could do my best to keep stability (for both),” she said.

When the couple decided to adopt both girls, they lost all government benefits and subsidies.

“Their emotional well-being meant more to me than the money,” Ms. Williams said.

Assistance was not far away.

The Department of Economic Security gave Melba the phone number for Duet, and she connected with the resources Duet offers grandparents raising grandchildren.

Duet is a Phoenix-based nonprofit that provides support for family caregivers, grandparents raising grandchildren, faith communities and homebound adults.

Some of the services include group activities for families, support groups, respite assistance and legal guidance.

“There was help!” Ms. Williams said.

For nine years, the grandmother said she has relied on her faith and Duet for emotional support to get her through the challenges.

Recently separated from her husband, she now can’t wait to get Duet’s monthly flier in the mail outlining the month’s activities for her and her granddaughters to attend. The outings and events give her a safe place to share her story and encourage others.

“It encourages me to hear the other grandparents who have been through the same situation, and they’re still hanging in there,” she said. “We look forward to the activities because I really can’t take them places like horseback riding and sightseeing by myself.”

The Valley nonprofit hosts regular support groups in the East Valley, including Mesa (the first Thursday of every month 6-8 p.m. at Bethlehem Lutheran Church), Chandler (the third Friday of every month 10 a.m.-noon at Clothes Cabin) and Ahwatukee (the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month 9-11 a.m. at Mountain View Lutheran Church). Learn more at

Editor’s note: Janelle Tapphorn was an editorial intern at Duet.

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