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Clinicians in the Trenches – Colette Acker

Please welcome Colette Acker, our first clinician to be highlighted in our monthly series, Clinicians in the Trenches.  In this new series, Lactation Matters will take you into lives and businesses of fellow colleagues around the world, allowing them to share their knowledge, expertise, and wisdom.

Colette M Acker, IBCLC lives in Glenside, Pennsylvania with her husband, Rodney.  They have three children who are now in the teen/young adult age range.  Nursing her own children led to her passion for assisting other mothers.  She became a volunteer breastfeeding counselor in 1995, an IBCLC in 1998, and co-founded the Breastfeeding Resource Center (BRC) 5 years later.  Although Colette loves working with new moms and babies, the multi-tasking life of the director of nonprofit calls for much more and never leaves her bored!  Outside of lactation, Colette’s favorite stress release is running and has developed a new addiction to Zumba classes.

1. What is the Breastfeeding Resource Center (BRC)?

The BRC is a nonprofit organization committed to providing expert clinical and educational breastfeeding services.  We offer a variety of lactation services from the prenatal period through weaning. We provide problem-solving consultations, back-to-work planning, and weight checks, along with other consultations designed to meet a mother’s individualized needs. Weekly support group meetings and low cost parent classes complement our outreach efforts. The BRC is an asset to the medical community by providing supervised clinical opportunities, as well as being a resource of evidence-based information. All services are offered on a sliding scale of payment to ensure access for all families.

2. Why did you decide to start a non-profit?

Two colleagues and I were on our way to our ILCA affiliate meeting and were dreaming.  We fantasized about a place where women could go if they were having difficulty with breastfeeding, planning to return to work, needing assistance in choosing the right products, or just needing some support and reassurance.  We also imagined it being a valuable resource for healthcare professionals serving breastfeeding families.  We were currently working in the private practice arena and we knew many moms couldn’t afford the service.  We felt strongly that this center should be accessible to all families, regardless of income.

3. What are your biggest challenges running a non-profit?

The biggest challenge is finding funding to allow the BRC to provide LC visits on a sliding scale of payment. Thirty three percent of our budget needs to be obtained through fundraisers, donations, and grant funding. All of these take a lot of time and effort by many people. The employees of the BRC wear many hats. Janice McPhelin, our Director of Development, is an IBCLC who works with moms on a daily basis and needs to jump into grant writing whenever a free moment arises. This hat-switching life can be very crazy, yet it also makes the job more interesting!

4. What resources have been most helpful to sustain your non-profit?

The greatest part about running a nonprofit center is that you are not alone. We have 16 members on our Board of Directors. We’ve found volunteers with expertise from all walks of life such as accounting, law, grant writing, physicians, RNs, and event planners. Developing a strong board with experience in the areas where the BRC needs the most help is vital. Also, creating a strong community among our clients has led to a large volunteer base. It is amazingly touching to see our clients so appreciative of our work that they volunteer time to keep it going strong!

5. What advice would you give to an LC who wanted to open a non-profit center similar to yours?

Prepare for a wild ride!  I’d suggest learning everything you can about running a nonprofit.  There are many opportunities available in most communities and on the web such as Plan on working long hours with little pay until funding becomes accessible. Discover your weaknesses and find board members and volunteers to fill that gap. Collect emails and join social networks for the most efficient and inexpensive way to spread the word. Become a strong member of your community by participating in health fairs, the chambers of commerce, as well as partnering with other nonprofits that target a similar audience.

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11 Responses to Clinicians in the Trenches – Colette Acker

  1. Liz Brooks 15 September 2011 at 15:52 #

    Great article about the fantastic work being done all day, every day at the BRC. There is such a need for community-based IBCLC care, post-discharge … to provide expertise where mother-to-mother counseling is not enough. Most US communities do not have the luxury of providing moms a facility such as this. I am hugely proud to brag that I provide some per diem hours at the BRC, as an IBCLC subcontractor.

  2. Jennie Bever, PhD, IBCLC 15 September 2011 at 19:21 #

    Wonderful article. I would love to start something like this in AZ!

  3. Debi Ferrarello 16 September 2011 at 10:50 #

    Colette Acker is a gift to the breastfeeding community and the BRC is awesome. Thanks for this feature!

  4. Peggy Naylor, IBCLC 16 September 2011 at 14:42 #

    Absolutely wonderful. This group of LCs and volunteers deserves to be so highly commended that words cannot do it justice. Best of luck in your continued efforts.

  5. Janine Johnson IBCLC 19 September 2011 at 12:37 #

    Your work is amazing Colette, I wish so much for something similar here in South Africa, I wish you and your volunteers much success for the future.

  6. Believe Midwifery 23 September 2011 at 05:35 #


  7. Ginny Combs 23 September 2011 at 14:29 #

    Hello!!! I’m so very excited to see this because I just spent 2 wonderful days with Colette at a Suzanne Colson workshop. Colette is amazing and her passion and committment to this work is wonderful.
    I’m so thrilled to consider her a peer and new friend!!!
    Best ,

  8. Margot Mann 23 September 2011 at 15:35 #

    This is an inspiring model. Congratulations to Colette Ackmer and her colleague for making this dream come true and to wordpress for spreading the news.

  9. Leslie Cree, IBCLC 23 September 2011 at 23:38 #

    I remember when you opened Colette–congratulations on your success!!!!! I am so happy the BRC has grown and thrived. Maybe someday we can open a BRCWest here in Harrisburg!

  10. isabella Mendoza 26 September 2011 at 04:01 #

    Is it very similar to the Baby Cafe model?

    • Colette Acker 31 October 2011 at 18:03 #

      Hi Isabella. Sorry this took so long. I didn’t see these comments until today. Most of our services are by appointment. We have drop ins once a week.

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