The Wilkes Pregnancy Care Center has outgrown its School Street building in Wilkesboro and is in the early stages of planning a campaign to build a larger facility elsewhere.
“We don’t have a new site in mind, but there’s no way to add to our current location,” said Susan Sturgill, the center’s executive director. The non-profit organization was incorporated in 1996 as a religious organization and purchased its current location in 2005.
Sturgill reviewed the growth over the past decade and said the center remains committed to providing positive alternatives to abortion, while providing care, compassion, information and support for women facing unwanted pregnancies.
She said the center does not offer, recommend or refer women for abortions or abortions, but is committed to providing accurate information about abortion procedures and risks. Sturgill called it both a non-denominational and non-political Christian ministry.
“We believe that all life has value and purpose. We believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that he died for his children,” she said. “We believe in building relationships and meeting our customers where they are. By doing this, many will come to know Christ.
The center provides 18-20 ultrasounds per month, many of which are model ultrasounds performed for convenience by the ultrasound nurse. Dr. Michael Blackwell of Wilkes Women’s Care in North Wilkesboro, the center’s volunteer medical director, reads all ultrasounds except for model scans.
“Dr. Blackwell signed our standing order that allows us to do pregnancy tests and he authorizes our nurse to read the tests,” Sturgill said.
“We served over 1,300 women last year, averaging over 100 per month.” Most are Wilkes County residents between the ages of 15 and 40, but the average age range is 19 to 27. About three quarters of the women served are single.
The center’s programs are provided free of charge and range from promoting sexual integrity through the abstinence-only LIFEguard program to offering post-abortion recovery support through a study. scripture titled “Forgived and Set Free”.
“Earn While You Learn”, “Baby Care Workshop” and “Practical Fatherhood” are programs where participants earn points by learning about pregnancy and newborn care. These points can be used to “purchase” baby clothes, child safety seats and other baby gear at the center customer store.
When the Wilkes Department of Social Services removes children under 3 from a home, their parents are referred to a parenting program at the center focused on responsible parenting of young children.
The center is in its fifth year of working with Wilkes County Schools to provide an annual three-day abstinence education program called LIFEguard to ninth-graders at West Wilkes, North Wilkes, Wilkes Central High Schools. and East Wilkes. This is the second year it has been offered to seventh graders at Wilkes Middle Schools;
LIFEguard was developed by the Coastal Pregnancy Center in Morehead City and has been used for 11 years in Carteret County schools. Sturgill said LIFEguard materials are used at Wilkes with permission from the Coastal Pregnancy Center. More details are at http://lifeguardprogram.org/.
The center’s director of abstinence education and a trained male volunteer teach the LIFEguard program at Wilkes schools as part of the health education program. State law requires that abstinence education be provided in public schools.
Sturgill said the center’s goal is for LIFEguard to help reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and the number of teenage girls with sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections.
The center provides the necessary training for volunteers to provide one-on-one support to clients as peer advocates.
Other volunteer opportunities include:
• assist with center operations, including grading/sorting/shredding;
• maintaining the customer’s store, including arranging products;
• clean and put away donated items;
• Assist the director of abstinence education with the LIFEguard program;
• assist the nurse by making copies, filing, keeping the ultrasound room and equipment clean. Medical training is required;
• help with fundraising campaigns;
• serve on the center’s board of directors to oversee the direction and core functions of the center.
The center has five full-time and part-time paid staff and an annual budget of $177,000. Sturgill served on the center’s board for seven years after its inception, becoming deputy director in 2003 and executive director in 2009.
Ninety-five percent of the funding comes from donations from local churches and businesses, as well as individuals who pledge primarily to give on a monthly basis. The center also has a fundraising effort each October.
Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For more information, call the center at 336-838-9272.