In the face of an unplanned, often unwanted pregnancy, this refrain echoes: What should I do? Where can I go? Who will help me?
Who will help me?
Compassion, support, and mercy: three basic human needs that are too frequently absent in a woman’s life in the face of an unplanned and often unwanted pregnancy. For over 25 years, Blount County’s Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC) has been offering these and more.
PRC’s mission is to help women “cope with unplanned pregnancies and consider their options in a compassionate, supportive environment with the help of trained peer counselors.” It’s all free, from that first pregnancy test to ultrasound exams, options counseling, and parenting support and education. They even provide some necessities, including maternity clothes and newborn supplies. And others come to the center for post-abortion support through “Christ’s healing love,” stressing that “you do not have to feel like you are keeping a dark secret.”
The Pregnancy Resource Center is a 501c3 nonprofit agency, which means it relies heavily on financial support and volunteers. Maryville Vineyard partners with the PRC as one of its community service focuses, showing up and serving in various ways.
Vineyard Small Groups Serve PRC
Ashlee Ivens serves as the liaison between the Pregnancy Resource Center and the Maryville Vineyard. Ashlee says she was motivated to serve with PRC because her mom is a volunteer nurse there. As she explains, “I have heard and experienced many of the joys and sorrows that go along with this ministry, and I know that it is truly saving lives every day.”
The Pregnancy Resource Center offers parenting classes on Tuesday evenings and provides an incentive for attendance. Through their “Earn While You Learn” program, participants earn “baby bucks” for attending classes. The “bucks” can later be used to “shop” from PRC’s stock of diapers, clothes, maternity clothes, and other baby items.
Vineyard small groups provided meals and fellowship at several Tuesday night parenting classes. During the meals, group members were able to sit down and talk with many who attended classes. Group member Sharon Steinbach reported that “the table was so full that only a couple of us were able to sit and eat with them.” The PRC staff was also tremendously blessed by the Vineyard groups’ outreach.
Ashlee believes many seeds were planted by her group’s efforts. Participants at the parenting classes, she explains, “got to see that not all church-goers are pushy and judgmental, as they often believe. We even had one family attend our church’s Easter service because of the direct influence of our members.” Another young mom invited a small group to her baby shower. Although the group wasn’t able to attend, they did shower her with gifts, directly leading the young woman to visit the Vineyard.
Ashlee says that Vineyard members have continued to partner with PRC, looking for ways to help them, including a sewing class, drives for maternity clothes and help with fundraisers. Several group members, gifted in nursing or counseling, hoped to continue volunteering at PRC.
In addition to providing meals, several Vineyard small groups had baby showers for the PRC, collecting various necessities. A children’s small group brought items on the PRC wish list, made no sew blankets/car seat covers, painted picture frames, played some baby shower games, and prayed for the moms and babies. This was a fantastic way for kids to take part in community service.
Car Seats As Must Have Gifts
Back in December, Maryville Vineyard designated the Pregnancy Resource Center as part of its “Must Have Gifts” outreach. Vineyard attendees were given the opportunity to donate money toward new car seats for PRC. As one of the more expensive necessities for newborns, car seats are in high demand in the area. State regulations dictate that agencies are no longer allowed to give out used car seats, so struggling parents have limited options. Through a partnership with Graco, the Vineyard planned to purchase car seats at a discount and provide them to the PRC.
We knew God was shining his light to provide and we were trusting and waiting for it all to come together.”
Alicia Meeuwsen, the Vineyard’s community service coordinator, said that the car seat program was “an amazing God story” from start to finish. Because of a series of miscommunication and lost emails, Alicia was beginning to despair that any car seats would materialize. At the last minute, everything came together. “All the pieces fell together at the last minute,” according to Alicia. “It was as if God said ‘I told you I’m going to be faithful but you have to wait.’”
More car seats than Alicia ever anticipated became available. “What we thought would be a small blessing,” Alicia explained, “ended up being huge. We were completely blown away. Not only could we give to the PRC but we would end up doing more than that. I believe God burdened this one woman’s heart at Graco to do and give more.”
Through an arrangement with Graco, donations from the “Must Have Gifts” program provided for 75 car seats. With this abundance, car seats were delivered not only to Blount County PRC but also to Women’s Care Center of Sevier County and the Hope Resource Center in Knoxville. As Alicia says, “We knew God was shining his light to provide and we were trusting and waiting for it all to come together.”
How can you help?
The Pregnancy Resource Center relies on volunteers, donations of materials, financial support, and help with fundraising. Here are some specific, ongoing needs:
- Help with outreach materials and education to bring awareness to local schools.
- Help with general housekeeping.
- Groups to throw baby showers (raise money or bigger baby items like strollers etc.) and office supply showers.
- Need newer maternity clothes donations.
- Volunteers to become counselors for the girls who come to the center.
- Volunteers to help put files into the computer.
- Need crockpots donated. Part of the parenting classes includes educating girls about proper nutrition and one of the items they can earn are crockpots.
- Groups to cook dinner and serve it to the people who come in for the parenting classes on Tuesday nights from 5-6pm.
- Gift cards for gas only, the parents will earn these gift cards at their parenting class.