A community service for more than 20 years, the Woolwich Community Health Centre’s “HUGS” program – Health, Understanding, Growth and Sharing – now operates each month in Breslau and Wellesley.
Based out of the WCHC facility in St. Jacobs, meetings were brought out to Wellesley’s First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church several years back. This year, the program grew again to include a pair of monthly sessions at the Breslau Community Centre.
Now, 15-year-HUGS veteran, and rural community health worker with the WCHC Heidi Wagner is looking to get the word out to young families about what the program has to offer.
“We’re not just a babysitting service or a drop-in centre, there’s a lot of value in what we do,” Wagner said, noting a dietician and a pediatric nurse practitioner all always available during sessions to answer questions and to map an infant’s growth.
The meetings, which take place on the second and fourth Fridays of the month in St. Jacobs, the second and fourth Thursdays in Breslau, and the third Thursday in Wellesley, give parents with children aged 0-5 an opportunity to socialize and learn from their peers as well as a long list of experts and professionals the WCHC brings in for talks.
In September, for example, there will be meetings focused on speech development, car seat installation and meal planning.
And while many moms and dads look to the Internet these days for the basics of childcare – or turn to their own moms and dads – Wagner says participants find it helpful to share tips and strategies face-to-face with neighbours and health care professionals who have seen it all in the field.
“Often young mothers have their mothers telling them something, and their mother-in-laws telling them something and their neighbours saying something and the woman down the street who knows everything, so I think it’s often good to have what the pediatric nurse is telling me I should be doing, to cut through the noise and to help ease anxiety.”
Over the years, Wagner says that while the issues young parents face have remained largely the same, there have been some major shifts in the typical family structure.
Stay-at-home moms are no longer the norm, she says, and women tend to have babies a little older than in the past.
But with an influx of young families into the township, and certainly many more on the way in the new subdivisions, demand for community groups for parents is bound to rise, Wagner said.
And with an expanded roster of services, the HUGS program is ready and eager to help.
The Healthy Understanding Growth and Sharing Program runs on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at the Breslau Community Centre, 100 Andover Dr., Breslau; the second and fourth Fridays at the Woolwich Community Health Centre, 10 Parkside Dr., St. Jacobs; and the third Thursday at the First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 3620 Nafziger Rd., Wellesley. The Wellesley and Breslau programs resume after a summer break in September. For more information, contact Heidi Wagner at 519-664-3794. ext. 237.