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Nonprofit For Pregnant Women Going Out Of Business

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It's almost graduation day for 19-year-old Erica Thomas. A few years ago that wasn't likely. She skipped school, drank alcohol and took drugs.

"I was terrible, I didn't want to listen," said Thomas.

Thomas finally did listen to Mary Jordan, a counselor in a youth support program of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Wake County.

"Mary is the reason I know what I want to do with my life," said Thomas.

The nonprofit worked with mostly low-income black and Hispanic families to reduce infant mortality, promote healthy pregnancies and prevent STDs. Now they are shutting down.

"There aren't any other agencies in Wake County that meet the needs of those particular populations," said Wake County Community Health Director Gibbie Harris.

Things went downhill after executive director Laura Oberkercher died last June. She wrote the grants and handled most of the operations. After she died, board members bickered, couldn't manage the money, and most of them quit.

"The board as a whole did not do the best job it could," said board chairman Craig Brookins.

The agency said the agency's physical presence in southeast Raleigh is just as important as the work going on inside their office.

"It doesn't matter who walks in that door. Staff will work to get the resources," said Brookins. "Without a physical presence, folks don't have any place to go."

The coalition plans to close at the end of next month. Staff members are now working to transition some of the programs to other agencies.