Pregnancy assistance program aims to help families grow and thrive on Eastern Shore

By Allison Marlow
Posted 10/4/17

Nearly three years ago Sheri Sims had an idea weighing on her heart. It had been there a while. It was time to do something.

Today, that need to help has come full term, and blossomed into the …

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Pregnancy assistance program aims to help families grow and thrive on Eastern Shore

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Nearly three years ago Sheri Sims had an idea weighing on her heart. It had been there a while. It was time to do something.

Today, that need to help has come full term, and blossomed into the only free pregnancy crisis center on the Eastern Shore. The Women’s Health Center in Spanish Fort offers pregnancy tests, counseling, ultrasounds and classes to help parents manage not just pregnancy but also the first few years of parenthood, all for free.

“A lot of pregnancy centers are more clinical, we are about the family as well,” said Sims, executive director.

The group received non-profit status just six weeks after applying and found a dilapidated building in Spanish Fort that came with reduced rent – if they repaired and renovated it. Enter volunteers, lots of them.

Volunteers gutted the building, once a small home turned daycare center. Even the subfloor was removed and replaced. Volunteers did nearly every task to include decorating once the heavy lifting was complete. The curtains and furniture was all sewn and recovered by volunteers.

“As we worked there were several signs that this was the right thing to do, things kept going right,” Sims said.

The makeover was completed in just four months. Now the building oozes calm. You can breathe here. You can relax here. Stained glass windows and comfortable, inviting couches fill the peaceful counseling rooms. This is exactly where Sims wanted moms-to-be to have the space to make what she believes is the most important decision of their lives.

“We try to encompass the whole family and prevent abortions,” she said. “We don’t want them to feel judgement, just peace and refuge.”

The group planned to expand as their donor based allowed. Earlier this year, one donor gave $50,000 so the center could have its own ultrasound machine. Now volunteer nurses spend time at the center to help women see their baby, gauge their baby’s age and heartbeat and take home a photo.

Volunteer counselors also help families learn about a variety of topics such as breastfeeding, labor and delivery, toddler care and natural family planning. Every class the family takes earns them dollars to spend in the group’s supply closet – a gigantic room filled with new and gently used clothing (up to size 2T), diapers, toys, bottles, car seats, strollers and other baby necessities.

“This gives them the dignity to earn what they need,” Sims said.

For men, the center offers 33, a program named for the 33 years Christ spent on Earth, Sims said. The class never once discusses diaper changing. Instead, it addresses what it means to be a good husband and father.

As the Women’s Health Center continues to grow, so does their need for donors. Local youth groups often come and help clean and do yardwork. In return, the counselors offer abstinence classes.

The current annual operating budget is $100,000. The all-volunteer staff has set a fundraising goal of $30,000 as they look ahead to expand the building and purchase it.

“I’ve always been involved in pro-life activities and always thought we needed something on the Eastern Shore and here we are,” Sims said.