by Doug Berger
Options Pregnancy Center (OPC) of Ava has been offering resources for crisis pregnancies and educational support for the community for over 15 years. The Center operates a satellite clinic in Gainesville, which was opened in 2018.
Options operates with a staff consisting of part-time employees and volunteers. Currently there are three employees and five volunteers in Ava, and one employee and two volunteers in Gainesville. The hours of operation in Ava are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Gainesville location is open on Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by special appointment.
“Most of our girls have unplanned pregnancies and find themselves in a crisis situation. The girls usually are scared and don’t know how they are going to handle the pregnancy on their own,” Mary Seewald, executive director of Options Pregnancy Center stated.
“We are a pro-life, 501C3, faith-based organization, and never refer for abortion. There is still a misconception in our community that Options will refer for abortion, but that is completely untrue. We believe in and value the sanctity of life,” Seewald stated.
All the services and classes offered at the Center are free of charge. Services offered include pregnancy testing, first trimester ultra-sounds, referrals to obstetricians for prenatal care, lay counseling, adoption counseling, classes on healthy pregnancy, nutrition, labor and delivery, breastfeeding, infant and toddler care, parenting, life skills and a fatherhood program. The available classes and services are always expanding. Recently, a Bible study series has become a part of the class offerings.
“If a girl signs up for our program early in her pregnancy, she could be in our program for three years due to our vast class offerings. Currently we have 20 girls in our program, 13 in Ava and seven in Gainesville. We also offer a fatherhood program because we feel strongly the role dads play in the lives of their children. Typically, our girls meet with the same mentor on a weekly basis in order to establish a good relationship. Each participant is enrolled in the ‘Earn While You Learn’ program where they earn points for keeping their weekly appointments, going to doctor appointments, going to church, keeping up with their weekly assignments, and being active in our community. They accumulate these points and then ‘spend’ those points in our Momma and Baby Boutique after the birth of their baby. We offer gently used baby clothing, baby items like strollers, high chairs and other furniture, baby formula, diapers, wipes and many other supplies,” Seewald said.
“Our goal is to establish relationships with our clients and pray over them. In fact, we like to end every class with a prayer. We always ask if the client would like for us to pray with them. Clients are never forced to have prayer. I think one time since I have been with Options has there been a client who said no to prayer. That client eventually became a Christian,” she indicated.
“We want to come alongside our girls and give them the tools to be a successful parent, to have their baby, raise their baby, and provide for their baby in a healthy way. We are not just asking them to choose life. We are coming alongside them and giving them the tools to help throughout,” she stated.
“Options Pregnancy Center believes in utilizing services and partnering with other organizations in the community. Recently, Options partnered with Set Free Ministries and now that ministry is using the parenting resources to conduct parenting classes for parents whose children have been temporarily removed from the home and placed with the Department of Family Services. Also, a partnership with MOCH (Missouri Ozarks Community Health Wellness Center) has been established where clients who are pregnant are referred to Options, and Options will also refer clients who are in need of prenatal medical care,” she explained.
“In 2019, OPC started utilizing a curriculum allowing for classes to be viewed online. This way clients could be sent an access code allowing for them to view their weekly classes on their phone or computer. Then, they could come in person to discuss the class and meet with their mentor. When Covid hit in 2020, we were already setup with these online classes, so we were still able to be in touch with our clients and provide the class offerings and weekly telephone meetings. We also were able to provide needed resources such as diapers and baby wipes during this time by offering ‘curbside pickup’ so the clients didn’t have to come in our center,” Seewald explained.
“The clients that Options typically see are women who have made a decision to keep their babies and become parents. In fact, it is estimated that only a couple of clients actually talked about abortion as an option this past year,” she said.
“If an abortion minded caller makes contact with our office, we try and encourage the woman to schedule an appointment with a mentor, so we can establish a relationship and offer hope and encouragement. It is important for the woman to come in and hear testimonies of other women who have had abortions. With their permission, we show a video with testimonies of women who have had an abortion and how it affected their lives. The spiritual, emotional and physical effects of abortion can be lifelong. They think they are going to forget about the abortion, but it always comes back to the forefront eventually, and usually when it is least expected,” Seewald said.
“We also want to be here for women who have had abortions because we are a healing ministry. The fact is most women are ashamed of their decision and don’t want to talk about it. Statistics show one in four women have had an abortion. We want to offer a safe place for women to process and heal emotionally and spiritually from the abortion,” she explained.
“I have worn many hats in this organization and I was a mentor for a while. When I met with girls who came to our Center for the first time, most were nervous. They didn’t know how they were going to have a baby, how they were going to put food on the table, and how they were going to make their rent. It wasn’t just I am pregnant and need parenting classes. Most of the girls were dealing with other serious issues such as lack of support and lack of finances. Watching them go through the classes, earn our trust, and seeing their confidence build, and believe in themselves, it was truly amazing. Watching the transformation of clients, and having them bring their babies in after they deliver is the most rewarding element of the program we offer,” Seewald said.