Cullman County, Ala., will soon be home to a brand new mobile pregnancy unit. First Source for Women, a pregnancy resource center, is located in the small city of Hanceville.
The only pregnancy center in the county, First Source for Women has been steadily growing since first opening their doors in 2007. They help women by offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, as well as by providing baby gear such as cribs, diapers, baby food, bottles, car seats, and clothing, available through their Earn While You Learn program.
“We’ve gotten the opportunity to interact with all of the school counselors in the county,” Connie Frappaolo, Board President of First Source for Women, said. “Now they all know about us and we’re keeping that line of communication open. The girls know that we’re here to give them options. Most of them don’t want to terminate their pregnancy so they come to us and ask what other options there are.”
Grants, fundraising, monthly donations from local churches, and private donations have been able to sustain the center, and they were recently able to buy a decommissioned ambulance with the intention of repurposing it into a mobile ultrasound unit.
Located on U.S. Route 31, Hanceville’s strategic positioning was a driving factor in First Source’s willingness to “go mobile.”
“We had heard about a lot of pregnant girls up in the neighboring city, but we never saw them,” Frappaolo said. “We were thinking we may have to put a satellite office up in that area, but as we got to talking to other pregnancy resource centers, they were saying they are going with mobile units.”
Lori DeVillez, executive director of Austin Pregnancy Resource Center in Austin, Texas, sent pictures to Frappaolo of the ambulance they had converted into a fully functioning mobile pregnancy center. It has a bathroom, mobile ultrasound equipment, and all the services of a brick and mortar pregnancy center—all on wheels.
With far less overhead and much more flexibility and reach, mobile pregnancy centers are able to bring pro-life help to women in high population areas where rent is often too high for the non-profits’ tight budgets, or there simply aren’t adequate buildings available for lease.
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There are currently over 100 mobile units on the road in the U.S., with some pregnancy centers adding mobile services through outside contractors like ICU Mobile and Save the Storks, and others—like First Source, handling the logistics of a new mobile unit in-house.
“Units are really important. It gives visibility in the community. It shows that we are being proactive in going out and I think that’s really important,” DeVillez said. “We get invited to a lot of the health fairs around the community. It helps shows the churches that they can be involved right in their own community. Going around and going into the areas where maybe there isn’t a pregnancy health center, we can show we can bring the help to them.”
Inspired by the mobile unit at Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, Frappaolo—who became the coordinator for the mobile unit—and her fellow board members at First Source for Women set out to find a used ambulance of their own to convert.
On a Tuesday evening, they put together a plan to find one, including one board member making a call to the mayor. The board thought that if anyone knew where to find a surplus ambulance, it would be the mayor. The next morning, he had one for them.
“He said, ‘I got one,’” Frappaolo said. “’I could get $10,000 at auction, but I’m going to go to the city council and see if we can get it to you for $5,000.’ It wasn’t used to transport anyone, just equipment, and it was in excellent condition. Wednesday morning he said, ‘I want to sell this to you for $5,000’. He really wanted us to have this ambulance.”
With the approval of the city council, the ambulance is now in the hands of First Source for Women, and awaiting its transformation. The board is in the process of rearranging the floorplan to best fit their needs, and they are also searching for an ultrasound machine.
Fundraising efforts are underway to pay the costs of the renovations, and they hope to roll out the unit in late fall 2016.