For more than three decades, the Bowling Green Pregnancy Center has helped thousands of young pregnant women in Wood County. On Tuesday, the center showcased its new “HerChoice” installation at 531 Ridge Street, corner of Thurstin Avenue.
In its 31-year service history, this is the nonprofit operation’s fourth location.
According to Executive Director Shelly Burkhart, the facility offers free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, classes and parenting advice, as well as free formula, bottles and diapers to help new and expectant mothers.
“We will help anyone who needs help,” Burkhart said. “This place is ideal for us.”
This is ideal because the manager said about 75% of their customers are students at Bowling Green State University, and HerChoice is right across campus.
Most staff and board members were present on Tuesday for the grand opening celebration.
With only one client room available in the old location, Burkhart said, “We needed more space where we could see at least two clients at a time.”
The need for space was at the top of their list and she said they prayed about it frequently. She said that every year they see more women walking through their door.
Last year, nearly 600 clients were served by the centre.
“We were searching and praying for God to lead us to the right place and he led us here,” Burkhart said of the property after seeing the “For Rent” sign on it.
“Here” has been the location of several different businesses over the years, including Collegiate Connection. The property is owned by the nearby University Parish of St. Thomas More.
Father Jason Kahle, parish priest, said, “I think this is a wonderful opportunity for two Bowling Green entities who share a similar mission to serve the BGSU community. Like St. Thomas More University Parish, the work Bowling Green Pregnancy Center does cares about the well-being of all people by sharing the love of Jesus Christ with them.
He added that the parish staff and community look forward to the center being available for students who need its services.
The staff’s prayers were also answered by the volunteers who demolished the interior of the building and Ed Tyrrell, who was the general contractor who worked to create the necessary space for the center.
The BG Pregnancy Center operates as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and is entirely community-funded. They do not receive any government grants or funding. They operate as a “life-affirming organization,” according to Burkhart and Melissa Hartenburg, the house manager.
One of the features of the center is what is called the Baby Boutique. Customers earn “dollars” for attending classes, for example, and can spend them in the store to buy clothes and other accessories for their babies.
The new facility also includes a conference room, which doubles as a classroom for parenting classes for clients, as well as a room where staff can meet daily for lunch. There is also an office space, two client rooms for consultations and reception, and a medical room for pregnancy tests and ultrasound equipment in addition to the reception at the entrance.
The center also provides medical referrals as needed.
There are four registered nurses on staff, but only one is on payroll; the others are all volunteers.
According to Hartenburg, ultrasound is a simple version designed to check the viability of the fetus. She explained that this is vital information needed before beginning to advise clients on their options.
“The three options for women are to parent, abort or adopt,” Hartenburg said. “We educate them on all the options in each of these areas on a very factual and non-emotional basis.”
“Last year, we saved 64 babies heading for abortion,” said Sherri Sellick, board member and customer advocate. “Often our clients just need someone to talk to about their options. A little education can mean a lot to them.
Burkhart said the new location will make their services more readily available.
“We want them to come to us. We want to love everyone who comes and show them all of their options,” Burkhart confirmed. “Our goal is to help educate and support young girls in their choices.”
Clients are split between pregnancy testing and counseling and service delivery. Burkhart said they cared more about those getting tested than those with material needs. The average age of clients is 24 years old.
HerChoice accepts appointments, although walk-ins are accepted.
Hours of operation are Mondays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
The center will hold its annual gala on April 21 for its main fundraiser of the year. It will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Levis Commons, Perrysburg.
The gala, which will include a meal, costs $20. Reservations can be made by calling 419-354-4673.
Cash donations are tax deductible. The center is also looking for new items to supply the Baby Boutique.
Women seeking services can stop by, call the number above, or visit www.bgpc.org.