Friday, July 31, 2009
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Pregnancy Resource Center offers no judgments, just caring help

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[July 31, 2009]  As the parent of a teenager, one of the most difficult moments in your life can be if your child comes to you and says, "I think I'm pregnant," or "My girlfriend is pregnant."

DonutsThe knee-jerk reactions in most cases are disbelief, then frustration, anger and finally worry.

And once the elephant is in the room, figuring out how to live with it is going to mean some tough choices. You may need help, along with guidance in your decision-making process.

You want to do what is right for your family, in accordance with your personal beliefs and in the best interests of your child.

According to Linda Nelson, director for the Pregnancy Resource Center, she and her staff are there to help, with love, care, concern and, most important, information that is vital to making the correct choices.

The Lincoln facility is one of 13 such sites located throughout Illinois and Indiana, founded in 1989 by Pastor Greg Roe of the Living Hope Church in Springfield.

Many people still refer to the agency as the Crisis Pregnancy Center, even though the name was changed almost two years ago. The name change was made to more accurately emphasize the service the center offers, Nelson said.

In the Logan County area the organization serves about 200 clients per year, with the primary goal to allow the child to be born.

When keeping the baby is not an option, the counselors at the center encourage the clients to allow the baby to be adopted. And, depending on a client's age, the center may even be able to obtain temporary shelter during her pregnancy.

The organization has adoption services in Champaign and helps get the clients connected with adoption specialists who come to Lincoln to help guide them through the process.

Nelson says that they prefer to deal in open adoptions, which means that the adoptive parents and the birth parents are both part of the child's life. In open adoptions, birth parents can have a certain amount of contact with the child and thus are able to watch the baby grow and develop. These adoptions also give the child the opportunity to know that their birth mother loved them and wanted them to have a better life than she could offer.

When clients choose to keep their child, the center offers a wide variety of services to help equip them for the future.

Nelson says that the first step is to find out if they have a doctor, and if not, to assist them in finding one. She says that many of the clients have medical cards, but that when they don't have one, there are doctors who will take care of them free of charge.

She praises the doctors in the Lincoln area and says that she has rarely had a problem finding someone who will take a client as their patient.

The center offers prenatal classes and counseling on independent living. Clients can learn about keeping house and providing a safe environment for themselves and their child, how to manage money and live on a budget, how to establish and maintain good credit, and much more.

As clients go through their classes, they earn "mommy" and "daddy" money, which is basically vouchers they can use at the center to purchase items for their babies. The center's "store" offers clothing for infants through size 5, shoes, toys and diapers.

Nelson also noted that the clientele is more and more including the father of the baby, and that those young fathers are taking their roles very seriously. She notes that it is quite interesting to watch them as they come in with their money and shop for their children

Once the baby arrives, the parents can also come to Nelson for essential food products. The center offers a small food pantry that is available only to their clients. In the pantry there are baby cereals, formulas, very basic food items and also diapers.

When a need arises that the center cannot help with, then they provide referrals to other services, such as Community Action for rental assistance or utility assistance and Mission Mart if they need housewares or infant supplies that the center doesn't have.


Nelson said that the faith-based organization does talk to clients about Christ, and if they are led to accept Jesus as their Savior, she will talk with them, pray with them and encourage them to attend church. "We do feel like if we can get them in a church, we can break a cycle in their lives," she said. However, it is not a requirement, and clients are not pressured into making such decisions. The primary goal is to help the client deal with her pregnancy.

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Offering education, counseling, supportive services and alternatives other than abortion is the crux of the organization. Since its creation, the center has saved 89 lives from being aborted.

While the faith-based, pro-life organization does not encourage abortion, they do offer supporting services related to the issue.

Nelson explains that clients and family often think that once the abortion is done, the problem is solved, so to speak, and life goes on. However, in most cases, that is not how it works. The client may suffer emotionally and physically. There may be feelings of guilt, and Nelson says, "the first thing we want them to know is that we love them, and we're here to help them through the grieving process."

The not-for-profit organization receives no state or federal funding and relies solely on fundraising efforts and donations for their support. As only one arm of a larger group, the Lincoln facility, as well as all the others, must support themselves. There is no cash pool that they can draw from.


Nelson explained some of the sources funding the organization. She said that there are several churches in the area that provide monthly support; the building they are located in on Union Street has two upstairs apartments that are rented out to help cover the mortgage; they have received some help from United Way; and they have several fundraisers each year.

The group does a Walk for Life fundraiser in the spring, Fill the Baby Bottle in the fall, sells walking tacos at the Art Fair in Latham Park and, new this year, they are having a "Rock-a-thon" at the Logan County Fair on Aug. 8.

For the Rock-a-thon, Nelson is asking for volunteers to come and rock in their rocking chair for a four-hour period. The "rockers" are to seek donations from friends, family or associates in support of their time spent in the chair.

Nelson says that the Fill the Baby Bottle fundraiser is one of the biggest ones they have each year.

Empty baby bottles are taken to local churches, and members of the congregation are asked to fill a bottle with their pocket change. Nelson says it doesn't matter how large or how small the amount, every penny is greatly appreciated and is used to help young girls in need.

She says that even with the fundraisers and local church support, things are tough at the center. She smiled and said, "Right now, we have $35 in the bank, but all our bills are paid."

As the director of both the Lincoln facility and one in Springfield, Nelson says that she has in the past given back her own salary so that the centers can continue to offer services, and she adds that if need be, she will do it again.


Although they are squeaking along financially, Nelson explains that if they had more money, there are many more things they could offer. Some of the training materials they use, such as VCR tapes and DVDs, are 5 or more years old, and more current versions would be a benefit. In addition there are new training resources available that could be put to very good use at the facility.

Nelson spends three days a week in Lincoln and two in Springfield; she has a bookkeeper who comes in four hours a week; and the rest of the time the center relies on volunteers to keep the doors open.

Currently there are about a half-dozen volunteers involved at the center. They do everything from answer phones to assist with trainings and counseling, but more are needed.

Nelsons says that even when she is in Lincoln, she could use people to help in the office so she can be out in the community promoting their services, doing public presentations and working on fundraisers.

Nelson does presentations around the community, speaking to young people about teen pregnancy and encouraging abstinence as the best method of birth control. She is always happy to go out and speak. Anyone who would like to schedule a presentation is invited to call the office.

The Pregnancy Resource Center is located at 308 N. Union St. and can be reached at 217-735-4838.


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