Mother lode of support

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Invercargill Pregnancy Help treasurer Anne Clarke (left) and president Dianne Acker.

MORE than 188 years of service has been given by the Invercargill Pregnancy Help team of nine volunteers.

Defined as a support group for pregnant women, parents, caregivers and young families… ‘it had all the requirements for a baby on tap’ by providing practical support and information with care, concern and confidentiality, treasurer Anne Clarke said.

Invercargill was one of eight branches nationwide committed to supporting women and their families during their pregnancy, with volunteers on-call. “If people need help, we are only a phone call away.”

Life and technology may have changed during the past four decades, but the needs of babies and mothers were still the same.

Back in the day there was no need for paperwork, president Dianne Acker said. However, “we continue with our core reason for being, providing baby clothing, bedding including bassinets, baby baths, knitted warm clothing which more than 60 women throughout the province knit and crochet for us and prams (thereby giving mobility to mothers) subject to availability which is through the generosity of our funders.”

In 1978 at the inaugural meeting, there were 12 committee members, with its first president, Phil Mulholland, vice-president Barbara Wilson, secretary Colleen McKillip and treasurer Aileen Kidd.

In the beginning meetings were held at Mr Mulholland’s home before moving to a room at the ‘old hospital’ [Kew Hospital], Mrs Acker said.

Pregnancy Help was now located on the corner of Forth and Clyde Sts.

Originally, the baby clothing had been stored in Ellen Dunick’s garage and distributed as needed, before another storage solution was found in Pomona St. Mrs Dunick’s compassion also included housing girls and women in-need.

Training was given by Kathryn Lucas, a socially-minded lawyer and member of the Dunedin branch, who travelled to Invercargill, Mrs Acker said.

Currently, the longest serving member was Clare Cousins with at least three decades of service, who introduced Shona Fraser, the next longest serving member who joined for “something to do”, Mrs Acker said.

With 21 years’ service, Heather Hughes joined in 1997 after contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau to donate baby clothing, and was referred to “Ellen Dunick who spotted that Heather was of ‘good moral fibre and should join the branch’.”

Another group was started in Winton at the Maternity Centre in 1992 by Madeline Hishon, but was closed in 2002. Mrs Clarke, a midwife, then moved to continue working at Pregnancy Help in Invercargill, and has been a member for 30 years.

Into the 21st century, training seminars were held annually, as was the AGM, and two conferences had been hosted in Invercargill, Mrs Acker said.

Its current patron was well-known and respected Dr Norman McLean.

Mrs Acker and her team were grateful for the funding and help from community groups including the Invercargill Licensing Trust, Community Organisation Grants Scheme, Bowls Southland, Community Trust of Southland, Jubilee Budgeting Advisory Service and the many church groups.

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