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Helping Hands celebrates 19 years

Helping Hands Executive Director Jill Althizer stands in the midst of the baby boutique where clients can spend “baby bucks” earned by attending a variety of parenting classes offered by the center.
Helping Hands Executive Director Jill Althizer stands in the midst of the baby boutique where clients can spend “baby bucks” earned by attending a variety of parenting classes offered by the center. Special to Sierra Star

Helping Hands, dedicated to community members facing unplanned pregnancies, counted 950 individual client visits for 2016, according to Kenya Deto, the Oakhurst Center Director. The center, now in its 19th year, offers a variety of free services including pregnancy tests and options counseling, childbirth and parenting classes, a baby boutique, emotional and prayer support and post-abortion support Bible study.

“We are not a medical facility,” explained Executive Director Jill Althizer. Because of this, clients privately self-administer the pregnancy tests. Helping Hands has centers in both Oakhurst and Mariposa.

There were 42 babies born to clients from the combined areas over a recent 11-month period. The centers have served clients as young as 14 and as old as 50.

Helping Hands receives no federal funding. In addition to the two paid staff members in Oakhurst, nine volunteers help in providing services at the Oakhurst facility after they have undergone 21 hours of training.

“It’s a blessing to be able to help,” said volunteer Marilyn Neumeyer, a retired labor and delivery nurse. She has offered her services for the past 12 years teaching parenting, childbirth and Lamaze classes at both centers.

Both Helping Hands locations hold open houses in honor of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, an observance first designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. It has been declared by several U.S. presidents who also opposed abortion. The Jan. 22, 1984 observance date was chosen to correspond to the 11th anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade case decision that first recognized abortion as a fundamental right.

To raise funds for the centers, local churches participate in the annual “Baby Bottle Campaign” where baby bottles are filled by individuals with coins, checks or currency.

During this year’s open house, Hayden, 8, and Heath, 6, Micheletti brought a coin-filled baby bottle to the center. “I emptied all of my money out of my piggy bank,” said Hayden.

“I did, too,” said Heath as they presented their donation to Deto. “It’s to help people,” the brothers explained.

By attending various classes offered at the centers, clients earn “baby bucks” which can be spent in the baby boutiques found at each center. A volunteer takes home any gently used baby clothing or other donated items and washes and cleans them. Then the clothing, toys, baby beds, strollers and other items are displayed along with donated disposable diapers and new car seats. By law only new car seats may be distributed.

Clients receive $5 in “baby bucks” and another $3 for completing the homework assigned. One dollar purchases clothing or a crocheted blanket.

The parenting class curriculum offered ranges from parent to be classes, to new parent classes teaching safety for child zones, to discipline for toddlers, to the challenges of parenting teenagers.

“We don’t discriminate in any way,” said Althizer. “We have had grandparents come to classes and other clients who are sent by the court system.”

Fundraiser

A “Walk for Life” to benefit Helping Hands Pregnancy and Parenting Centers will be held June 24, at the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park in Ahwahnee. Registration at 8:30 a.m., with the walk beginning at 9.

To register and raise funds, see www.friendsofhelpinghands.com.

Details: Jill Althizer, (559) 641-6800 or helpinghands@sti.net.

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