Saturday, March 18, 2017

Gardner Osborn -- Deep Spirit, Abiding Faith

Rediscovered Treasure...Found some of my favorite "Blast from the Past" profile stories, this one from Bubba Moore's TV Facts Magazine, the week of April 25 - May 1, 2004. Bubba was fighting health challenges and he graciously allowed me to write his columns on whatever I wanted to write about, and Mike Newton served as Editor and designed all the layout. Their only instruction to me was to write about anything that was good news locally. Remember Bubba's motto: "It's good news!" The original images are shared here, but I retyped the story for legibility. Hope you enjoy. DLW

[Ed. Note: Cover Photo Legend: This week our story focuses on the founder of the Prenatal Clinic and the men and women who have helped make it the vital resource for women and children that it is today. Read and be amazed at the misconceptions you probably have about this most necessary medical service, beginning on page 3. Photos by Dawn Lee Wakefield. (Right) Gardner Osborn: Mother of the Prenatal Clinic (photo by Beth Price).]

Gardner Osborn -- Deep Spirit, Abiding Faith

What is it that keeps Gardner Osborn going? That's a pretty fair question to ask, given her recent bout with critical illness. Just seven short weeks ago, Gardner was on prayer lists around town and frankly, few expected her to live.

Those who hoped for her recovery were cautious: they never expected her to bounce back. Thanks to prayers and good medical care, however, she is the vital, dynamic do-gooder sailing into April, 20014, a renewed vision of her exuberant self. Not only did she come back, she's so youthful and vital that it's understandable why some of her fellow parishioners at downtown's St. Andrew's Episcopal Church named her "Lazarita."

She's back and she's busy, preparing to attend a luncheon next Saturday that wouldn't even be occurring, were it not for Gardner and the help of some great colleagues. What's the story behind this dynamo? How does one person grasp a problem and envision a solution, and then rally key leaders to support the cause?

The first thing Gardner will tell you is that "one person never does anything by himself." She means this spiritually and otherwise. Beneath her direct, straight-shooting executive nature, you explore to discover the soft heart of this warrior for women.Then you find her deep religious commitment and hence her motivation and approach to life. It all started as a young age.

Daddy's Little Girl

When young Gardner Golston was growing up in Tyler, she studied carefully how her daddy problem-solved obstacles in his path. Spotting a shortage of party ice to be had on vacation in rural Alamosa, Colorado, her dad simply decided to start a water purification plant, so they could have ice, and a booming business ensued. Saw the need, fixed the problem.

Next, Dad has his favorite brands of groceries, but no stores there carried them, so he built a large supermarket in Colorado and stocked them. That business venture did well! Saw it. Fixed it. Then, he loved lettuce, but you couldn't get fresh lettuce in Arizona, where they spent the winter. You guessed it.

He was the first man to build a commercial vacuum packer for lettuce, and he hauled it on an 19-wheeler all the way to Arizona and had his salads in winter. Getting the picture? Young Gardner grew up never knowing a problem; rather she learned how to troubleshoot towards solutions. That, and never to take "no" for an answer.

The Beginning of The Prenatal Clinic

And so it was in 1985 when Gardner Osborn went to a rather nondescript meeting of the Episcopal Church Women's (ECW) group, and they were there discussing some potential project or other than bored her. Her mind wandered,and she wrestled with what is it in this town where the ECW could "really" make a difference?

At that annual ECW meeting, her subconscious dwelled on one factoid causing her great distress: Brazos County led the nation in perinatal deaths. The perinatal period covers five months before a child is born, and the first month after birth. Most women are familiar with this term. Most men aren't. Truth is, almost two decades ago, we in the Brazos Valley were leaders in poverty. In 1985 you had 30-40 mothers per month going into delivery who'd never had any prenatal care.

You've Got to Have Friends

Gardner then felt moved to action, and she started calling her friends. One of the first people she called was Anne Hazen, a nurse who shared the vision to establish a clinic where low-income pregnant women could come in, early in their pregnancy, and begin a program of prenatal care. Then, there was the call to the ebullient Topaz Hughes, someone she knew as a "mover and shaker." She got on board quickly.

Friend Margaret Ann Zipp publicized the first meeting calling for "anyone who was interested" and 15 people showed up. Gardner and Anne went all over Waco, Temple, Georgetown, and Houston's 5th Ward, exploring what was there as a pattern for what could be. The idea was taking shape.

Next, Gardner called Sr. Gretchen Kunz of St. Joseph Regional Health Center (as it was known then), and she readily donated a room at the hospital's property for $1/year on Osler Blvd. to serve as the first prenatal clinic site. There were two exam rooms, one tiny closetlike office, a small waiting room, and one community bathroom stall. They brought lawn chairs from home to place in the clinic's waiting room.

The local county health department really wasn't in tune with the idea yet. Undaunted, Gardner found a new path, as her daddy would have. She was determined to rub out that infant death statistic. She found a way. Although they didn't know it then, as a pretty good golfer. Gardner found a way to manage her tee times to coincide with those of a few key county officials...and they just thought it was by accident that they ran into her. Eventually, finally, the county offered a small stipend of support. Victory!

Every time state legislator Lan Bentsen needed a ride to the airport, guess who drove him, and then gave him an earful about how we needed help here? Bentsen really carried the flag for prenatal health funding here. Gardner drove the golf balls and the state legislative see the need as her spirit saw the need. And as she was being relentless, for unborn infants and their mothers, who in their right mind could say no? Few did! Or if they said "no," they learned to change their answers.

A few local men were also key to securing excellent funding. Steve Ogden helped tremendously--state health care block grants and funding came our way with his help. Sr. Gretchen and St. Joseph were solid supporters. And Dr. Jesse Parr, Dr. David Doss, and board member Mark Bates, Gardner notes, were dynamic young doctors who saw the need and shared the vision and made the clinic a medical reality.

Who Goes There?

Chances are good you have never met a client of The Prenatal Clinic. But last year, over 700 women were patients of the clinic, and what a difference. It's hard to imagine that children from the clinic's first patients are about to graduate from high school. They very well might not be here if it were not for caring community volunteers like Gardner Osborn and her friends. It's so easy to not think about it, to take it for granted that every pregnant woman we know and care about has access to a good doctor, sonograms, medicines, and knowledge of what to eat and what not to eat or drink while pregnant. But, truth is, the need is stronger than ever. People are now coming here from outside our local area, because they need the services this clinic provides for prenatal care.

Today, the clinic has an outstanding executive director, Steve Koran, and he oversees as the community sponsors and support grows each year. Located next to the Brazos Transit bus terminal, the clinic's clients are able to get referrals to receive help with health, education, and financial assistance programs for which they qualify. There's also a "Baby Closet" for clothing and other items, WIC coupons, and various church women's groups hold Bible studies, and they throw baby showers instead of birthday parties for one another, and the gifts, then, are for the clinic's clients. How refreshing!

Gardner says, "The best news is that 85% of the women return after giving birth to go shopping in the Baby Closet. It's a family atmosphere where they can receive a great start, and excellent care from a nurse practitioner."

She also notes that it's easy to confuse the Prenatal Clinic with other groups with the word "clinic" in their name. She specifies that "all our mothers are low-income women, and very few of the women are in their teens," so that should clear up a few of the misconceptions and confusion. Mothers and babies, it's about the mothers and the babies.

The Gospel According to Matthew (and Gardner)

Matthew 25:33 -- "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to eat. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me." And 25:40: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

This dynamic Episcopalian disciple of the gospel according to Matthew has lived this for many years, and she's a modest, humble servant of the scripture, which she serves as best she knows how--head-on and full speed ahead.

Gardner Osborn, a mother whose own five children had grown and left the next, searched her heart and listened to an inner voice for inspiration at a church meeting. Today, we drive down Texas Avenue and see a place where newborn lives are saved, where mothers will cherish the reality of holding their healthy infant sons and daughters in their arms. All this because one woman searched her heart, remembered the teachings of the Book of matthew, and recalled the lessons she learned at her daddy's knee. She made a difference.

Outstanding Women Honored at Annual Fundraiser

This year's "You're the Tops" Luncheon is the 10th annual celebration of women in our community whose volunteering and devotion to civic progress spans organizations that benefit education, children, arts, music, churches, and synagogues. Ten women are to be feted at the luncheon at the College Station Hilton, Saturday, April 24th, with proceeds going to the Prenatal Clinic.

The honorees include Jean Benavides, Mary Broussard, Winnie Garner, Linda Gilbert, Rhonda Kogut, Mary Boone Oxley, Ruth Samson, Brenda Sims, Netta Jackson Simek, Doris Watson, Wanda Watson, and Penny Zent. Each of these ladies is worth of distinction, yet each would tell you that the spotlight should be on the Prenatal Clinic, an organization that makes it possible to provide health care to more than 700 low-income women each year from the Brazos Valley, and now, outside the valley.

It is because of Gardner Osborn, as Steve Koran says, the "Mother of the Prenatal Clinic," and her dear friends that we have a clinic, that we have the privilege of knowing the mothers of 25% of the babies born right here in Brazos County receive care through the Prenatal Clinic. Their statistics are solid. "In the past two years, only 15 mothers delivered without prenatal care, compared to 75 mothers in 1987." Men and women together saving lives, because of the vision and determination of women making a difference.

One more photo from that issue: Caption: "Dynamic Ruth Clearfield, pictured with husband, Dr. Abraham Clearfield, and good friends at her table, is one of the shining stars of the silver screen of Hospice. From the beginning of the Hospice Fundraisers, you'll always find Ruth and Abe's names listed among the top donors. This year they were Golden Globe level supporters!

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome article.
    Yes, Mom was special but what made her determined was her generous heart for others.
    Oh, and that attitude "If you don't agree with me then I will be knocking on your door daily, ringing your phone hourly and chasing you down every isle of the grocery store till you see it "MY WAY"!"