We spent some time a few months ago at Pamper Lake Highlands, the rapidly expanding nonprofit situated in the Forest Meadow Baptist Church near Lake Highlands High School. We spoke with Venezuelan asylum seeker Alejandra Valbuena, who is enrolled in English and job skills classes there, who works in the organization’s day care (which her daughter attends) and who says the institution has been a lifeline for her and her family.

She’s one of hundreds who have better lives because of PLH, founded just three years ago by Caren Bright, a single mom who once lived in a homeless shelter and had a vision of collecting diapers for mothers in need.

It all started with a diaper drive, she says. Then, with lots of help from our neighborhood she started the classes along with curriculum-based childcare.

Alejandra Valbuena, middle, and other students learn English from volunteers at Pamper Lake Highlands, a nonprofit benefitting local women and children. She takes adult literacy classes three days a week and recently began working at the charity’s childcare center. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

“There were 40 women in that first group, 20 children, and a dozen volunteers, and this church, Pastor Tim, they let us in,” she says at a ceremony Thursday to graduate the organization’s third group of women, which, along with volunteers and supporters, has more than doubled in numbers.

“Pamper Lake Highlands still provides diapers, but the full focus is family empowerment and breaking the cycle of poverty,” she says.

Pamper Lake Highlands founder Caren Bright. Photo by Jennifer Shertzer

She thanks the many supporters who made the day possible — Lake Highlands Women’s League (PLH literally would not exist if not for their founding financial support, she says) and Exchange Club, Methodist Children’s Home, The Warren Center, Feed Lake Highlands, JJ’s Cafe, AT&T, PricewaterhouseCoopers, many volunteers and donors and district 10 city councilman Adam McGough and his team.

McGough delivered the opening remarks (video above) advising us to follow Caren’s lead — don’t wait to be ready, just get it done.

“I am so proud and thankful to play whatever small part I can play in Pamper Lake Highlands,” he says.

More than 70 women picked up graduation certificates for completing the semester of classes. Those with 80 and 100 percent attendance received gift cards and other rewards. The dozen or so who could not attend were absent because they have jobs now, Bright says cheerfully.

Friday (today), Pamper Lake Highlands competes in the final round of Spark Tank, where four charities compete for a $20,000 grand prize.

See more photos from yesterday’s event here. And keep up with the contest outcome, as well as volunteer and other opportunities, via Pamper Lake Highlands’ Facebook page.