Starting a New Group
Dublin OH USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 40 No. 6, December 2004 - January 2005, p. 133.
One of the many questions I get about La Leche League is, "Why isn’t there a meeting in my home town?" I asked this question myself several years ago, and it changed my life.
The Birth of a New Group
I first attended La Leche League Series Meetings in Illinois, USA and then in Ohio, USA. The meetings in Ohio were in a neighboring suburb, but I wondered why there was not a Group in my suburb. There had been a Group in my home town years before, but the Leaders had retired and the Group disbanded. I decided at that point that I would like to become a Leader in order to start a Group (with a great deal of help!) in my own home town. I met with Martha Crone, one of the Leaders of the neighboring Group, to discuss leadership and starting a new Group. We decided that we could work on both things simultaneously. Fortunately, the Group Martha was working with had four Leaders at the time, so she was willing to work with me to start the Group.
Over the next few months, we located a meeting space, picked a date and time, set up the Treasury, purchased books, created and distributed publicity flyers, and notified local newspapers. After six months of preparation, we held our first meeting. At the first meeting, we had four Leaders and one new mother, who was a friend of mine. The next month there were four Leaders and two new mothers. At the third meeting, there were no mothers. (How appropriate for the topic—"Overcoming Difficulties.") But we continued with the publicity and by summertime there were approximately five mothers at each Series Meeting. We thought this was great! Since that time, our numbers have increased, our Group has two Leader Applicants, three Leaders, several mothers who are regular attendees, an expanded Library, and best of all, many mothers and babies in the area who have been helped.
Challenges to Overcome
Meeting Space: We needed a location that would not charge us a fee, would be available during the time we wanted to have a meeting, and would be safe for curious babies and toddlers. We initially met in a meeting room at the public library, but later changed our location to a local church that had a more comfortable and appropriate space. We had to change the day of the week of our meeting, but it was well worth it given the upgrade in space.
Finances: We were fortunate to receive personal donations, an Area Chapter grant, and donations from other local Groups.
Group Library: We had a shoestring budget, but we also had dreams of a generous Library for future members. One Leader Applicant took the responsibility of finding reasonably priced books to purchase for the Library. We also took advantage of the LLLI New Group Library Book Set (1445-22) to have new books to lend as well as to sell. Several Groups in the Columbus, Ohio, USA Area also donated books to us that were duplicates from their own Libraries. We sent emails and made phone calls to friends and family who had breastfed to see if anyone could donate any books to the Group.
Publicity: Word of mouth seems to bring in the most new mothers, but how does one bring in the first mothers who will spread the word? Our first mode of publicity was a flyer promoting our Group. After getting the okay from our District Advisor, we made 50 copies and placed them at doctor’s offices, libraries, churches, and preschools. Next, we found the email addresses of local newspapers and sent press releases about our Group starting up in the area. Finally, we told our friends and neighbors about the Group and waited for the mothers to arrive.
The most empowering lesson to be learned is that we started this Group with one Leader and one interested mother. We worked together and took advantage of our strengths and abilities. Martha is an experienced Leader with an understanding of the LLL network of support, so she knew what was required to begin a new Group. I had the energy and interest to do the publicity and to make arrangements for meeting space. We asked for help where we needed it and found other Leaders happy to help.
A statement made by Marian Tompson at the 2002 Ohio Area Conference illustrates what we learned. I asked her what the biggest challenge is for La Leche League in the next 50 years. Her answer was, "To meet breastfeeding mothers wherever they are." I think this is a challenge we can meet.
Margaret Robinson leads with two Groups, LLL of Dublin and LLL of Crosswoods, both located in suburban Columbus, Ohio, USA. She was accredited in 2002 several months after the Dublin Group was formed and is also working as an Associate Coordinator of Leader Accreditation for Ohio, USA. Margaret lives with her husband and three children, ages 9, 7, and 3 in Dublin, Ohio, USA.