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30+ years of helping moms, babies
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ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin correspondent Maternity clothes and baby clothes, such as those shown by director Cara Lehr, are among those provided by Pregnancy Help Center of Manteca.

The seed was planted 30 years ago in Manteca. The half-dozen volunteers established their office with just a few chairs and a table in a small one-room office on South Garfield Avenue just across the street from Manteca High.

Today, three decades later, that humble beginning (originally named Manteca Right to Life) has grown into a whole building with several rooms that include classrooms plus counseling and storage areas.

The nonprofit Pregnancy Help Center has indeed grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to all the support derived from various sources in the community that include churches, businesses, organizations, individual residents, even schoolchildren.

While they accept a variety of items that babies and new mothers need such as layettes, diapers and baby clothes, the biggest need is money to pay for rent, utilities and other bills, said executive director Cara Lehr, one of only two paid staff. Regular donors such as several churches in the city, and monthly online pledges by individuals in the community help them meet those expenses, said Lehr who took over the helm nearly a decade ago from Janice Laplume who served as volunteer director for many years. Proceeds from the annual crab feed started five years ago helps augment those financial receipts.

Local churches who have been staunch donors through the years include St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Calvary Community, Crossroads Grace, Foursquare and New Hope churches.

Additionally, “we work with all the ministries in this area like LOVE, Inc.,” said Lehr.

While the program gratefully accepts all in-kind donations to help babies and young mothers, there are a few items that quickly run out. Diapers sizes 3, 4, and 5, and baby wipes, for example. As far as baby formulas are concerned, they are often in need of Enfamil, Lehr said. “It’s hard getting it because it’s very expensive,” she explained.

Every little bit helps, though, such as those coming from various sources like the Student Council of St. Anthony’s School which selected the Pregnancy Help Center as their class project this year. The collection they managed to gather from all the students filled the back of a pickup truck that was used to deliver the entire collection on Tuesday to PHC on North Main Street.

“It’s beautiful that kids are doing this,” nurse Paulette Potter said of the students’ generous gesture.

Free services

offered at PHC

PHC’s mission, as stated in its brochure, aims to “provide free life-affirming services, helping young women and men in crisis situations by offering services in a loving, non-judgmental way.” This is achieved by providing “a confidential, safe, loving place... where young women and men can discuss their situation with trained advocates and receive the best quality up-to-date information on all choices, allowing them to make informed decisions.”

To these ends, the center offers a “wide variety of parenting and life-skill classes for both moms and dads... plus offer material support such as maternity clothes (and) baby items.” Classes are also now available in Spanish.

Free ultra-sounds and

mobile medical unit

A few years ago, PHC with the help of such groups as the Knights of Columbus, was able to acquire a state-of-the-art Medical Mobile Unit that will make it possible to provide ultra sounds and pregnancy test services to women. For now, pregnant women have to come in to Pregnancy Help Center for these gratis. Obtaining the necessary license to bring the services out to the public, however, has been moving at a snail’s pace.

The application was turned in to the State of California in 2017, and they only heard a response from the Consumer Affairs on March 8 of this year. The effort to get the license has been “frustrating,” said Potter who is the registered nurse in charge of training volunteer nurses for PHC.

Having that license will make it possible for them to reach out to prospective clients in Manteca and surrounding areas such as Ripon (at St. Patrick’s Church, for example), and in Lathrop at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

They also plan to bring the medical unit on wheels to such convenient public places in Manteca such as the parking lot at Grocery Outlet on East Yosemite Avenue. In fact, they’ve already received permission to use that location from the family of Manteca City councilman Gary Singh which owns this commercial property.

“Reception from the community has been great,” Lehr said of Pregnancy Help Center’s programs and services.

Last year alone, they helped more than 200 individuals, she said.

For more information about the Manteca Pregnancy Help Center, visit or