I’ve been volunteering as a crisis pregnancy counselor for a little over a decade, and my friends often ask me what they can give us or do for us. It’s Lent so maybe you’re thinking about what you can give to women and families in need. Here are a few thoughts ranging in commitment level from very low to very high.
First, obviously, the easiest way to know what your local center needs is to ask them. (I didn’t do that for this post because I’m not actually going to donate anything so I didn’t want to bother the staff, but you should bother them, they’ll like it.) Talking with your local center is also a good way to ensure that they are actually a place you’d want to support–I was pretty wary of CPCs because I’d read a lot of accounts from women who were shamed or lied to, but the training at my center emphasized that we serve the women, and we serve through honesty and kindness.
Second, though, the basics: Our center focuses on the first year of life. That means diapers through size 3, clothes through about 18 months. Blankets, wipes, toiletries for both babies and moms, and “furniture” items like strollers, car seats, bouncers and walkers, play mats, and potties. A range of formulas and baby foods, although of those two, formula is by far the more important and popular. Things people flip over, which we get rarely: Carriers to let you wear your baby, e.g. Bjorns, Snuglis. People love these. If you have one kicking around and you don’t have like a cousin who needs it, hand that joint over, you’ll make a mom’s day. The toiletries also fly out the door.
We can’t take toys or cribs, which is one reason you should check with your local center before donating!, but we do have a bookshelf with kids’ books through middle-grade. Just last night a lady told me, “I always find my favorite books here!”
We don’t focus on older kids (again, check with your center), but man, it is great when we do have larger-size diapers, pull-ups, and clothes through about 4T or 5T. We’ll take that stuff, and the diapers especially will go quick.
We do “church clothes” for special occasions, e.g. right now we’re trying to send people home with Easter clothes for their kids. Similarly Halloween costumes and Christmas clothes.
Beyond giving out actual physical items, the center tries to provide a haven for our clients and to connect them with other services and community groups. So many of the women we see just have little support and few people who listen to them. We have a church referral program that connects women who are looking for a church with churches we know. They list the characteristics they want and somebody from a church that fits those criteria gives them a call and offers to pick them up, introduce them if they want to meet people, etc. If you go to church and have a car this is basically the greatest thing ever since transportation is a major hurdle for a lot of our clients.
We also have a parenting class, for which babysitters are welcome, a childbirth class, and a post-abortion group. Also do not underestimate the need for really simple, humble services like data entry, sorting clothes, and cleaning.
We always need counselors who speak Spanish. Counselors fluent in ASL would also be great–we’ve had them in the past, and it’s a huge help since we’re right near the Gallaudet campus. Last night I was wishing we had someone fluent in Amharic. Your local community will have its own range of language needs. Fluency is a big deal because if a woman needs her husband or child to translate, that makes it nearly impossible to have conversations about issues like abortion (including abortion in her past) or, especially, domestic violence.
That reminds me: If you already serve in another area, or have expertise or experience, consider talking with your local pregnancy center about being a contact person. E.g. if you already work or volunteer at a domestic violence group, if you have served prison time or work with people coming out of prison, those are gifts you can bring to our center. If you’re willing to meet with or mentor people you can transform some of your hardest experiences–of homelessness, addiction, struggles with mental health, abortion (one of our most memorable training sessions was given by a woman who had an abortion after a truly awful experience at a CPC, and wanted to make sure none of us ever treated a client the way she was treated)–into pathways of love. In a counselor, these experiences are strengths.
Counseling has been life-changing for me. It has pushed me, taught me, changed how I live out my faith, and shown me Jesus’ love. I hope I’ve been able to show that to others. (lol this paragraph is very high-flown but also on a practical note if you’re interested in counseling I really cannot recommend Motivational Interviewing highly enough.) Can’t speak for others but I’m always happy to answer questions about my experience firstname.lastname@example.org .