WATCH: Accomack-Northampton pregnancy center moves to Onley
Video by Carol Vaughn
The Accomack-Northampton Pregnancy Center has seen a significant increase in visits since moving from Belle Haven to a ranch-style house on Route 13 in Onley in December.
The Center – which offers free services including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, information, referrals, parenting classes, miscarriage and post-abortion support, and more. – has already received 578 visits this year, compared to around 1,800 during the last year.
“I think we’ve seen an increase of at least 30%,” chief executive Linda Baylis-Spence said.
Clients come to the center from all walks of life, including those experiencing both planned and unplanned pregnancies, she said.
The office’s location, across the freeway from Walmart and near the new Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital, is ideal, she said.
The rented space has been renovated with a lot of help from volunteers, including the owners. Its purple and teal color scheme mirrors the centre’s logo, which was chosen based on a customer vote.
READ MORE: Berlin and Chincoteague rally around girl with leukemia
The center is staunchly Christian and pro-life – it does not refer women to abortion services and its mission statement calls it “a Christ-centered ministry”.
The first thing visitors see upon entering is a large “Tree of Life” decorating the wall. It was painted by one of the centre’s approximately 20 volunteers, some of whom have worked there for 16 years.
On the tree are metal leaves each bearing the name of a person in honor or in memory of whom donors have donated money to the center.
With three part-time staff members — Baylis-Spence, Lisa McNeal and an accountant — it’s volunteers and support from local churches and groups that keep the pregnancy center open, the director said.
“We have a lot of support; I’m actually touched by the amount of support we have. … People really want to be a part of what we do,” she said.
The center, which was founded in 1995, receives no government funding and raises much of its annual budget through two annual events – a Laugh for Life dinner in the fall and a Walk for Life in May.
In addition, churches and individuals donate to the center throughout the year. Some churches even hold baby showers and donate gifts at the center.
“Everything you see here is a donation,” Baylis-Spence said, pointing to a room staffers call the “baby shop,” which is stocked with clothes and other baby necessities.
Additionally, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Community Foundation donated money to purchase larger items such as cribs, car seats, and strollers.
New parents who are customers purchase the items using “Baby Bucks”, which they earn by taking individual parenting classes or meeting other standards.
“Our philosophy is that we’re a helping hand, not a handout,” Baylis-Spence said.
The center organized more than 800 such courses last year.
READ MORE: Cape Charles adopts unattached order despite pushback
“It’s a mentoring relationship that our volunteers have with them,” she said.
The addition of ultrasound equipment, which was purchased with a grant from the Knights of Columbus, came a few years ago, and the center is now a licensed medical facility, with certified sonographers performing the procedure.
“I literally turned the car around”
The move from Belle Haven to Onley came after Baylis-Spence decided to find a location closer to the area that has become the hub of the east coast.
“I was walking up and down the highway, looking for places to go,” she said.
One day she was walking past the house at 26064 Onley Road when she felt she was being told to stop and ask about the house.
“I literally turned the car around,” she said.
When she turned into the driveway, a man was in the yard and he told her that he was about to move and the house would be for rent.
“Within about an hour I was on the phone,” she said, adding, “It was just a matter of listening to that voice.”
For Baylis-Spence, the pro-life stance comes with the responsibility to also provide support – emotional, spiritual and practical – to parents who come to the center.
READ MORE: Coast Guard budget cuts are bad for Delmarva, officials say
“I strongly believe that if we want to encourage life choice, we have to put our march forward with our speech.”
The center has hours of operation Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment. Call 757-787-1119 or visit womenspregnancysupport.org