by Kari Apted
Opened in 2016, the Newton Pregnancy Resource Center utilizes a small staff and a group of volunteers to provide services free of charge to mothers in need, regardless of age, race or religion.
A diaper bag led Natasha Clarke to the Newton Pregnancy Resource Center, smiles encouraged her to come back and love keeps them connected to this day. Aching physically from having just given birth and hurting emotionally after leaving a strained relationship, Clarke was scrolling through Facebook as her 3-day-old daughter slept in her arms.
“I saw a post with [a] picture of a diaper bag and women talking about how many diapers they had gotten from this place,” Clarke said. “I thought, ‘Diapers are really expensive right now. I should call them.’ Everyone was so friendly. I met with a lady named Shelley who smiled at me the whole time. I told them that I like smiles [and that I would] be back.”
Clarke remembers it as the day she joined a powerful circle of women who have become like family to her and her daughters, Anna-Bella, 10, and Ajna, 10 months. A first-generation American, Clarke was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and spent her childhood in the impoverished Tivoli Gardens district.
“They give you so much more than the essentials for a newborn baby. They are a powerfully knit group of women you can always rely on. You can call whenever you need them, anytime.”Natasha Clarke
“My grandmother’s mission was to get all her children and grandchildren to the States, and she did that,” Clarke said. “We have all worked really hard to make a good life for ourselves.”
Clarke became pregnant with her oldest daughter at the age of 16. After graduating from high school, the tall, slender young woman followed the advice of friends and traveled to New York to become a model.
“I was pretty successful at it,” Clarke said. “I was in a lot of publications, but the modeling world has such an underbelly to it. I was working 16 to 18 hours a day and ultimately had to make the choice between being a model and being a mom to my little girl.”
Clarke returned to Georgia and soon found herself in a new relationship. Over time, the couple learned they were expecting a child. However, the relationship started to fall apart, sending Clarke into what she describes as the lowest point of her life. “I reached a point where I had lost everything except my baby,” she said. “I didn’t have anything by the time I went back to my mom.” Not one to stay down for long, Clarke applied for a job at Amazon and was hired when she was eight months pregnant. “I was in the Top 5 of my training class,” she said. Although premature labor made that position short-lived, Clarke was eager to return to work six weeks after daughter Ajna was born. She currently works from home as a customer service representative for a national retailer and is nearing completion of real estate school.
“This glow up that God has blessed me with is my happily ever after,” Clarke said. She credits the women at NPRC for giving her the essentials she needed during a difficult season of her life. “If every woman with a child under age 2 knew about NPRC, they would be there every week,” Clarke said. “These women—if you knew these women—when they pray, you can feel their prayers. They are real. They show me their imperfections and I show them mine, and I am able to grow.”
NPRC clients are served by a group of staff and volunteers. Ashley McGee has been Clarke’s primary counselor since she first arrived at the center.
“Natasha wasn’t like some of the girls who come in; she was a mom who knew what she was doing,” McGee said. “She had strong convictions about the way she would raise her children and how she would take care of them. If there was one thing I knew about her, it was that she deeply loved her children. If there was one thing that came to mind when you were with Natasha and her baby, it was ‘beautiful mother.’”
After getting to know one another over the course of several months, the two women began a Bible study together at the center. Clarke came to the meetings desiring to grow spiritually but carrying a hefty dose of skepticism.
“I grew up in a strict Pentecostal church and saw a lot of hypocrisy that left me thinking, ‘Church is not for me. There’s just too much going on,’” Clarke said. “I stepped away because I didn’t want to be that messy.” Clarke credits McGee with reconnecting her to the faith. “Ashley’s flow is just amazing,” she said. “She is gifted at what she does. The way she delivers a message, I think God must be right behind her.”
NPRC Executive Director Rachael Long wants local residents to know that the center’s scope extends beyond pregnant teenagers and young single mothers. Services are provided free of charge to any mother in need, regardless of age, race or religion.
“NPRC has been open since fall of 2016. We’ve seen a total of 300 clients since we first opened,” Long said. “We serve women even after their babies are born—in fact, up to a year after the birth of their babies and in some cases even longer. Many of our moms have other children, which can make unplanned pregnancies such a burden. We seek to ease that burden as much as we can.”
Because of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, in-person visits to NPRC have been scaled back and often replaced by virtual consultations. Usually, clients earn points from participating in the center’s “Earn While You Learn” curriculum program. These points are redeemable for pregnancy and baby essentials in the NPRC’s resource store.
“During the stay-at-home order, we called each client personally and simply gave them whatever they needed,” Long said. “We either delivered the items to their house or put them outside the center door for them to pick up. It was so hard not to hug them, but we did the whole air hug thing.”
Clarke wants to make sure other families in her circle know about NPRC. She refers to herself as a mediator, a voice that bridges the gap between older and younger generations. She often brings younger family members and friends with her when she visits the center.
“I’m like the neighborhood mom,” Clarke said. “Every week-end, I have several kids at the house. Any time you come by here, there’s going to be kids besides my own at the house. No matter where I am, if I can hear God’s voice, I know I’m OK. If you ask what’s the goal for my life, it’s just to love and be loved. Love has brought nothing but joy and goodness into my life.”
The Newton Pregnancy Resource Center is located at 5278 Adams Street in Covington. For more information, call 770-415-1176 or visit the center onlineat newtonprc.org.