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Pregnancy Resource Center adds services, expands hours

Donations from the community help to give expecting mothers baby clothes, maternity clothes, blankets, toys and more. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)1 / 2
Pregnancy Resource Center executive director Tori Harju and client service director Michele Werder find their work in the Park Rapids community to be rewarding.2 / 2

The Park Rapids Pregnancy Resource Center is adding services and expanding hours for clients looking for support.

The PRC also has a new executive director, Tori Harju, and has added Michele Werder as client service director.

Harju started training in September, officially taking over for Heiki Gross in October.

"I'm a Park Rapids graduate and went to school in Des Moines, Iowa. I came back in a roundabout fashion. Lived in Duluth for a while then came back here and had a family," Harju said.

The PRC has special meaning for Harju because she was once looking for help during her first pregnancy.

"I came back here after I had my first son because I had a crisis pregnancy," she said. "My family really supported me. I ended up getting married and I have four children now that keep me very busy."

Since Harju once had a crisis pregnancy she is able to share some of her personal experiences with clients.

"It was just one of those things that stuck with me and I felt called when I saw the advertisement for the position."

The center provides the following services:

• Free pregnancy tests.

• Confidential peer counseling.

• Parenting education.

• Maternity and baby clothing.

• Incentive programs.

• Abortion risks and procedures.

• Emotional and spiritual support.

• Referrals for social services, Mahube and other community resources.

• Pack 'n Play program - Clients may qualify for a free Pack 'n Play.

In July, the center was awarded a Positive Alternatives Grant from the state of Minnesota to provide positive choices for women who are facing pregnancy. The final word on the grant was received in October.

"We were able to, with this grant, able to expand our curriculum for parenting. Moms who come in that are in that situation ... now have a lot more to choose from. Baby care, life skills.

"We were also able to expand our programming so that it doesn't end when the baby turns 3 months. They can now do another portion of the program because we all know that just because you have a baby doesn't mean that parenting ends."

With the grant funding, additional staff was also hired.

"We were able to hire Michele Werder to help with clients who are coming in and getting them set up ... not just in the material assistance program but our education al program," Harju said.

Hours have also been expanded.

The center is now open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays starting in January and 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays.

In 2012, the center saw 78 people and 39 new clients for a total of 130 visits.

Many of the center's clients are community-referred from the Headwaters Intervention Center, Mahube or the Women Infant Children program.

The center offers opportunities for clients to earn points while they learn to use for maternity and baby items. Classes are offered in life skills, childbirth preparation, parenting and budgeting.

The center relies largely on donations from the community. Clothing, toys, blankets and other items are collected at area churches.

"We have some really nice items to offer expecting mothers," Harju said.

New moms also receive gift baskets that are tailored to the person, whether she is a first-time mom or expanding a second or third child.

Several fundraisers are held throughout the year, including the annual Walk for Life in the spring, the fall banquet, a February benefit concert and a garage sale.

Harju is excited to continue helping others who are looking for information and support.

"It's very rewarding," she said. "I was a single mother for six years and have so much information I can share with others."

Werder was adopted and also has a special connection to the PRC because of that.

All services are free and confidential.

For more information, stop in the center at 200 Sixth Street West during office hours, call 732-5212 or go to The PRC also has a Facebook page.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561