Northwest NEWS

July 10, 2000

Features

Nellie's kids

Nellie's kids

The babies and their mothers who go through the Special Delivery program are special to Nellie Harris.

by Bronwyn Wilson

   Nellie Harris's office door is open, but she isn't inside. She's upstairs with her support group, which is just wrapping up.

   Soon she's headed back to her office, where she talks with her assistant and invites her guest to have a seat. She sits in one of the two wingback chairs opposite her enormous desk, and while talking, she points to a framed photograph of a smiling pre-schooler.

   The adorable child, she says, is one of "her kids." Not her biological kid, but one of the kids born to a young mother who went through the Special Delivery program, where Harris is Director.

   Dedicating thirteen years of her life to serving the needs of young women in unplanned pregnancies, Harris cares as much for the young women and their babies as if they were her own children.

   It's apparent when the phone rings. She jumps up from her big chair to answer it, then listens intently and offers comforting words.

   Nellie Harris first realized there were young pregnant women in crisis, abandoned by their families and boyfriends, when she hosted a KGNW radio program which dealt with women's issues. It was during this time that Harris approached her church saying, "We need to do a lot more to help pregnant women in non-planned pregnancies." The church was understanding of the situation, but nothing got off the ground.

   Soon a women's group formed, and the women, along with Harris, began planning how they could meet the needs of women in crisis pregnancies. Before long, Harris's church got behind the effort, and the women had a place for support groups to meet, and not just for moms-to-be, but for the parents of the young moms and for families who had decided on adoption.

   When the need for a larger place came up, Nellie Harris brought the need before the church board. She wanted to buy a large house in Woodinville. This time, her church acted right away. Within three weeks, the congregation raised the purchase price amount of the home.

   At the new house, a "Special Delivery" sign was posted on the road, and many driving by thought it meant a boutique or a gift basket delivery service. But it is neither.

   Special Delivery is where young moms are offered support, prayer, love, friendship, Harris's attentive ear and, when needed, room and board. It is also where any one of forty volunteers meet to mentor a young woman throughout her pregnancy and afterward.

   The young women who live at the house must agree to certain guidelines: abide by a curfew, continue their education, and not date. "I think the guidelines are really necessary if you want to change your life," Harris says.

   Also, if professional counseling is needed, Harris says it is contracted out and Special Delivery pays for it when insurance coverage isn't available. Sometimes the adoptive parents pay for counseling services.

   Supported by United Way through designated giving, Special Delivery is usually recommended to a young woman by friends, social workers, or doctors. Some find out about it in the Yellow Pages. No matter how Special Delivery is discovered, once the women agree to the program, they're family to Nellie. "I'm at a lot of the births," she says. "They're my kids."

   And does she stay in touch? "Oh, my gosh. I have kids coming back from twelve years ago," she says.

   Harris emphasized that she's not an adoption agency, but she supports open-end adoption. "I'm supporting their choice of parenting or adopting." And she's had the joy of doing both, supporting those who choose to be single moms and supporting those who choose to place their child with an adoptive family.

   Harris admits that she has a dream to work in the inner city and hopes to purchase the old Morrison Hotel by the site where the Kingdome once stood. "I really want to meet the needs of people where they're at," she says. And for Nellie Harris, this shouldn't be difficult. It's what she does, and very well.

   For further information, call 425-485-3582.