By Ashlei Williams, High Ground News
The teen birth rate across the U.S. has declined to a new low each year since 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health. In an updated report released this year, its Office of Women’s Health noted several contributing factors, including increased use of birth control and federal programs prioritizing pregnancy reduction.
But despite the reduction in teen pregnancy, there is still a need for services and support for teens who do become pregnant.
The Hagar Center is a Frayser-based nonprofit founded in 2010 that offers assistance including free diapers, wipes and other postnatal necessities, as well as education on birth control, abstinence and sexually transmitted infections. The center also houses a diaper bank and offers a safe haven for homeless teen who are pregnant or parenting.
In an effort to take its fundraising to the next level, the Hagar Center hosted its first 5K Fun Run on June 29 at Shelby Farms
The 5K started at 8 a.m. at the Shelby Farms Tour de Wolf Pavilion. Within 30 minutes, the adult division’s first place winner, Chad Mackiewicz, crossed the finish line. Juleann Roberts placed first in the youth division.
Hagar Center’s executive director, Erma Simpson (L), presents Chad Mackiewicz with his first place medal. Mackiewicz won the 5K Fun Run’s adult division. (Ashlei Williamson)
“We don’t do a lot of fundraising. We’re doing a race because we want something we can continue to do every year and become better at,” said Cicely Wilson, The Hagar Center’s board chair and 5K coordinator.
“We have lots of volunteers who come out and donate their time and resources, but with money and cash, we have to work for that a little bit more,” Wilson said.
The 5K raised more than $2,000 with 90 people registered to fundraise and 69 participating in the event. Key sponsors included general contractor Hamilton Builders, SisterReach, a 501c3 non-profit supporting the reproductive autonomy of women and teens of color, and A Step Ahead Foundation, which provides free IUDs and birth control implants.
All proceeds from the 5K will go toward The Hagar Center’s Lunch & Learn series where local teen mothers are brought together each month to learn life and employment skills. Specifically, it will go towards transportation and lunch for the teens and supplies for their children.
“The series gives them what they need for life in order to be good moms and responsible adults,” said Wilson.
(L to R) Hagar Center board member Valencia Turner, volunteer Arianna Jones, board chair Cicely Wilson and Erma Simpson, founder and executive director. (Ashlei Williams)
Memphis Runners Track Club, the fifth largest member club of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), played a major role in organizing and promoting the 5K.
The turnout for the event impressed the The Hagar Center staff who initially anticipated only 30 participants from their own networks.
Stephanie Parker-Bradley is a native Memphian and teacher at White Station Elementary School. She heard about the event from Wilson and knew about the Hagar Center from a previous event she attended in Hickory Hill.
“I noticed the 5K was located in Shelby Farms and me and my daughter walk there four out of the seven days of the week,” said Parker-Bradley. “I love participating in things like this. I’m supporting the organization, and at the same time I’m benefiting health-wise.”
Parker-Bradley’s daughter, Faith Bradley, joined her for the 5K. A student at Vanderbilt University, she is home for the summer.
“I actually heard about The Hagar Center because I’m an alum of St. Mary’s Episcopal School,” said Bradley. “While I was there, I was part of this organization called the [St. Mary’s Community Fund] that raised funds for local nonprofit agencies. The Hagar Center was one of the organizations that we funded this past year.“
“I just love what they’re doing with the community,” Bradley continued. “And then with my health, I want to stay in shape and get fit so the 5K is just the perfect combination of both.”