Pregnancy center meeting area needs

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'We don't advise them what to do...'

By Calen McKinney


When clients come to the Hope Pregnancy Center of Taylor County for the first time, they've usually been referred by the Lake Cumberland District Health Department for a free pregnancy test.

Depending on their individual situation, some clients are excited when they learn they are about to become mothers. Others are upset and worried about how they will provide for their baby.

Director Marcia Gilbert said the concern and support clients receive from the center's staff and volunteers as the results of the test sink in is what makes them come back. Gilbert and the most of the center's volunteers aren't trained counselors and, therefore, they offer confidential peer counseling.

"We basically just do what a good friend would do," Gilbert said. "You listen to the person and you give them some feedback, and you know, just be there for them."

And so the process begins for enrolling in the Hope program, which provides expectant and new mothers with resources ranging from fetal development videos and books on breastfeeding to diapers, clothing up to 2 years old, bottles and other essential baby items.

A mother of seven with a "very pro-life heart," Gilbert started volunteering at the center more than three years ago. Although only a few clients have shown interest in adoption, she said information about the adoption process is available.

"We don't advise them what to do but if they choose that, we make the center available for them to meet with different adoption agencies of their choosing," Gilbert said.

According to Gilbert, the main concern for most clients is how they will financially manage.

"If they join the program, they know that if they do a little bit of work, they will get the benefits of belonging to the program and it's completely free," Gilbert said.

The center also leads a peer support group and Bible study every Monday night. Gilbert said the support group's attendance is growing, with about a dozen each time.

"We do request for each person who participates in the Hope program to come twice a month to the support group," Gilbert said.

However, many clients come every week. She said most of the center's clients identify themselves as Christians but don't have a Bible or attend church.

"For a lot of them, the support group Bible study is the only place they're hearing the word of God or interacting with people who can maybe give them some answers and help them with some of the tough times," Gilbert said.

Mother of two Gina Smith learned about the center four years ago after reading a story about the center in the News-Journal. While the free diapers and baby wipes were a great help for Smith and her husband who were just starting out, she said discovering the support group has been an unexpected blessing to her family.

"The center has a great support system," Smith said. "It's really helped me build my relationship with God."

Christy Morris, a graduate student at Campbellsville University's School of Social Work, said leading the support group has helped her as well as the clients.

"It's really helping me spiritually because I had a great life growing up. I haven't had to go through what a lot of these mothers have gone through as a child," Morris said. "So for me, to still be able to relate with them and talk with them, it helps me in my spiritual walk."

Clients get points for attending the support group and parenting classes, watching educational videos and enrolling in the Hands program through the Lake Cumberland District Health Department. The points are then used to "buy" baby items from the Hope closet.

Gilbert said the Hope closet helps relieve some of the financial burden for clients in exchange for teaching clients how to become better parents.

"This isn't the most affluent area," Gilbert said. "You can both be employed and still have trouble making ends meet."

She said she understands that most clients initially come to the center because of the help it provides. However, Gilbert said that by watching clients with their children, she can see they sincerely want to be better parents. She said that sometimes people have some misconceptions about the clients who use the center's services.

"It might surprise some people to know that so many of our clients are either married or in committed relationships," Gilbert said.

As part of an ongoing effort to make the center's services available to all parents who need extra help, the center underwent a name change last year. Gilbert said the center's former name, Central Kentucky Crisis Pregnancy Center, bothered some clients.

"So many people said 'What's with the name Crisis? I don't want to be a crisis. My life, my baby isn't a crisis,'" Gilbert said. "I mean this might be a tough time, but they just didn't like that word."

She said the name change gives the center a more positive connotation that is important for those clients who hear about the center through word of mouth.

Jenny and Michael Rogers learned about the center from Smith. Parents to 2-year-old Brayden and 1-year-old Eli, the Rogerses are also primary caregivers to his 19-month-old niece.

"We were in need of everything," Rogers said. "At the time, [Michael] was in between jobs and I had three in diapers."

She said she hopes more mothers with multiple children will consider using the center's services because it isn't just for first-time mothers.

"We can get a hold of Marcia anytime, and the other moms who come to the support group, they know what you're going through."

The center receives no government funding and runs solely on donations from the community. The center also accepts donations of clothes in sizes newborn to 24 months, personal care items, cribs and car seats that meet federal regulations, bedding, formula and baby food.

Gilbert said donations have been low in recent months.

"I think it's just people are experiencing hard times and in hard times, places like this get cut," Gilbert said. "But our need is no less, in fact, it may be greater."

For Gilbert, one of the most encouraging parts of her work at the center is the clients who try to give back to the center. For example, once their baby outgrows an outfit, most clients bring the clothing back to the center so that it can be used by another family.

"Because of the dignity that comes with work, they want to give something of themselves and will come in and help clean or fold clothes," Gilbert said.

The center also offers one-time help to families who don't belong to the Hope program on a case-by-case basis. However, to continue receiving help they must join the program.

For more information about the center, call (270) 465-4330 or visit www.hopepc.org.