By Elizabeth Matthews
Megan Hammond knows what it’s like to be a young woman facing an unplanned pregnancy. Her life as a teen mom is part of the inspiration behind founding The Nest, A Women’s Center in Jacksonville and Yulee. The Nest seeks to serve the men and women of this community and to save lives, both physically and spiritually. In May 2016, five women started the ministry to help fill a need. Today, The Nest is run by Executive/Client Services Director Lisa Miller, Finance Manager Rhonda Hall and Medical Manager/Sonographer Megan Hammond. The center offers the following free and confidential services, including but not limited to pregnancy testing, limited OB ultrasounds, options counseling, parent education programs, mentoring for mothers and fathers, and a baby boutique for baby and maternity items. Their goal is to provide emotional support, educational resources, and practical assistance. The Nest serves hundreds of clients every year from all walks of life and ages ranging from 14 to 49 years old. In 2022, they served 490 clients, provided over 14,000 diapers and 1200 baby clothing items, and held 149 in-person parenting classes, 402 virtual classes, 58 Bible studies, and 180 sonograms with 84% of clients planning to parent. During the pandemic, they remained open and were able to serve 462 clients between the two centers.
The Nest is also very open about the services they are able and unable to provide. The center is truly a community service organization, staffed by local volunteers and funded with help from the community. The Nest is 100% donor funded and is currently running their annual Baby Bottle Boomerang campaign. This year, they have partnered with 37 churches and business partners in Nassau and Duval counties to fill baby bottles with cash, loose change or checks. Donations are collected in baby bottles between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and later returned to the organization. Anyone can participate and it’s not too late to join. All funds raised will go towards maintaining the center and assisting parents’ needs.
It’s important to Megan that The Nest is compassionate to everyone they serve. Every client who walks through their doors is treated with respect and empathy while helping them navigate the complexities of pregnancy and parenting with love and understanding. Recognizing the significant role that fathers play in the lives of their children, The Nest extends its support to fathers as well. Parenting classes, mentors, and Bible studies are offered to equip fathers with the necessary skills and knowledge to become active participants in their child’s life. It is central to the mission of The Nest that the clients they serve have the support they need. When Megan became pregnant at 18 years old, she had a lot of family support and completed her education to become a sonographer. She gained experience working at two pregnancy centers before co-founding the Nest. But, she remembers, at the time there was not a lot of support from the church. Megan said she opened The Nest because, “I never want a girl to feel that way. We want her to know that, yes this has happened, but Jesus still loves you and God has a plan for you.”
If you would like to help The Nest, monetary contributions are accepted on the website. They are also looking for additional volunteer staff and donations of new or gently used baby and maternity items, and formula or new car seats are always welcome. For more information and hours of operation, please go to thenestjax.com.