I visited the Union County Pregnancy Center this week, and immediately felt the warm caring and compassionate support by the volunteers there. Many of these volunteers are also clients.
I was hired in October 2015 as the United Way of the Piedmont’s Community Relationship Manager for Union County, and in that role, I am working to find ways to increase visibility for both United Way of the Piedmont and our program partners with the United Way of the Piedmont invests locally raised funds in programs that are making an impact in the areas of education, financial stability and health.
Before I was hired, I had a misconception about how influential some of the seemingly “smaller” programs could be. I quickly realized that the size of the program does not always directly correlate with the size of the effect a program can have on the community.
The UCPC opened in 1998, by Lisa Hartley and her mother, Gayle Owens. Lisa is the executive director and also the program director as well as an educator. She always finds a reason to make time for this program. UCPC doesn’t have a paid staff; they are all trained volunteers.
Lisa shared a story with me that touched my heart, and I would be doing this column an injustice if I did not share it. Her mother lived to the age of 92 and passed away four years ago. Many of the clients attended Mrs. Gayle Owens’ funeral and placed pictures of their babies in the casket in honor of all of her help and guidance. We both tried to hold back the tears, but this just proves what impact on the lives of others we can have just by lending a listening ear and the true desire to help others.
One example of a local woman helped by the center is Allison Gregory, who started going there around five months ago.
“I go once a week and they really do a lot for me,” Gregory said. “I read stories about pregnancy and life issues, answer some questions, and in return, I receive baby bucks.”
Many people do not have the resources to be self-sufficient, and the incentive based Baby Bucks program is there to help.It allows the individual to get the items they need to provide basic care for their children while also gaining the skills needed to become self-sufficient. The individuals come in once per week for counseling sessions, where they are encouraged to set goals. When the individual comes back the next week, they are held accountable for those goals.
“Baby Bucks’ value is the same as money,” Gregory said. “One baby buck equals a dollar, and with these, they allow us to purchase things for my kids to help us get through. The biggest thing they supply to all us women in my eyes are the diapers and wipes. I don’t think people realize how much money this saves young mothers throughout the year.”
Clients are also given “homework” that they take home and complete. The goal of the work is to help the client with basic financial skills. The program is working. Program clients are able to find jobs and return to work. They gain the skills needed to increase family finances and stability for their children.
“These people are so kind, and also, I like that they are women of God,” Gregory said. “They are very understanding of our issues. Every week they pray with us and that makes me feel so good. They help mothers get whatever it may be we need for our kids — whether it be diapers or a place for the baby to sleep, none of which is cheap, and I am — and will be — forever thankful for their help.”
The Union County Pregnancy Center is able to provide these services thanks to investment from United Way of the Piedmont and a caring community. .
For more information about services of Union County Pregnancy Center, receiving benefits or volunteering call (864) 426-2824.
For every $1 donated to United Way of the Piedmont, 88 cents goes to programs and services that are improving lives and building a stronger Union County. Donations made to United Way help us support these programs. Please visit our website — www.uwpiedmont.org — email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 864-606-9004.
Missy Kirby Wilkes is the United Way of the Piedmont Community Relationship Manager for Union County.