Single mother, Gloria Pena describes giving birth to her son Guillermo as one of the happiest days of her life. After holding him for the first time, Pena says she knew the nine months of effort she put into maintaining a healthy pregnancy paid off.
“I was so relieved when I held him,” Pena said. “He was perfect.”
Although Pena carried Guillermo to term successfully as a result of her own choices, she says she received a lot of help along the way.
A healthy beginning
At a routine visit to a clinic during her first month of pregnancy, Pena says a nurse referred her to Healthy Beginnings, a program designed to aid single expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy.
According to Pena, the Healthy Beginnings program helped her through a time when she needed support more than ever.
“There aren’t many programs available like this one; I have found it extremely helpful,” Pena said. “I have made friends there that are single mothers like me; it’s good to be able to share experiences with them.”
The Healthy Beginnings Program – run by the Stop Community Food Centre (The Stop), combines healthy living tips with one-on-one attention to monitor expectant mothers throughout a pregnancy. The public health nurses weigh the women and provide tips on proper nutrition.
More than a handout
According to Nadien Godkewitsch, fundraising and communications co-ordinator for The Stop, the negative reputation food banks sometimes receive sparked the idea. At Healthy Beginnings, participants receive more than just a handout.
Established in the early 1970s, the not-for-profit agency located on Davenport Road originated as a food bank. Since then it has grown into what Godkewitsch calls all encompassing with a diverse range of programming.
“Visiting The Stop doesn’t require checking [your] dignity at the door,” Godkewitsch said. “[At] The Stop we believe it is important to create real solutions and empower our clients, not just sit and wallow with them.”
Godkewitsch says The Stop doesn’t encourage self-pity, but an atmosphere of support, helping people gain the confidence to get through a difficult situation.
A place worth returning to
Almost one month after giving birth to Guillermo, Pena recently found another reason to return to The Stop. Pena participates in a breastfeeding circle every week. Each Wednesday a public health nurse shows new mothers different positions to hold their newborns, to prevent discomfort and allow for optimal feeding.
Like Pena, many of the women originally in Healthy Beginnings returned to The Stop when they heard about the breast feeding circle.
“This is just another way for new moms to receive some extra support during a very crucial time.” Godkewitsch said.
For those clients wanting to give back to The Stop after receiving help, Godkewitsch encourages volunteering at the agency. Godkewitsch says Pena has already made a contribution by showing the courage to reach out.
“Women [like] Gloria are modeling behavior for other new mothers,” Godkewitsch said. “By having the courage to reach out and get some advice, she is paving the way for others like herself who may need help, but just need that extra push.”
For more information about The Stop Community Food Centre contact 416-652-7867.