Editor's note: Montana’s pregnancy centers, especially those in university communities, seek to impact students, youth, and adults with various programs and partnerships. Part 1 of the series highlighted Care Net of Missoula; this article reflects the impact of ZoeCare on the town of Bozeman and the surrounding area, including the campus of Montana State University.
Bozeman’s ZoeCare seeks to show value to all human life through community outreach and partnerships
Approximately 200 miles east of Missoula lies the town of Bozeman, home to Montana State University (MSU).
ZoeCare, a life-affirming pregnancy center, serves not only those university students who experience an unplanned pregnancy, but also women who are not in school in this fast-growing community.
The pregnancy center opened in 1978, and began offering ultrasounds nearly 13 years ago. ZoeCare center sees about 60 patients a month, offering STD testing and treatment, and also works with other organizations to meet the needs of clients, which often involves finances due to the local cost of living.
“We recognize that the choice to abort a child is very rarely an isolated decision,” ZoeCare Executive Director Chris Grinnell said. “It is heavily influenced by many factors, from extended family stability, economics, housing, education and many others. Therefore ZoeCare’s shift over the last 10 years specifically has been to offer more holistic support for parents as well as their children.”
Significant need for assistance with housing
Known as one of the fast-growing areas in the nation, Bozeman’s population in 2009 was estimated at 39,500. Today, it’s nearly 48,500. The average monthly rent this year is almost $1,300, and the median home costs more than Denver, Colorado, a city with more than 10 times Bozeman’s population. Housing costs present a hardship for many of ZoeCare’s clients.
“Specific to Bozeman, the lack of affordable housing is such an issue for our patients and is an often expressed as justification for abortion,” Grinnell said. “Wages are relatively low in Bozeman compared to housing costs, which makes renting a place adequate for a newborn difficult for many of our patients.”
The center helps address this dilemma by collaborating with other organizations to which clients are referred.
“ZoeCare tries to partner with those individuals and organizations that can offer temporary housing and continues to keep abreast on programs and opportunities that HRDC (a non-profit community action agency) provides and how our patients can take advantage of their offerings,” Grinnell said. “Unfortunately, given the tremendous deficiency of affordable housing, that has not been enough, and we continue to pursue ways to assist our pregnancy patients in this regard.”
“We have periodic in-service training,” he added, “where representatives from HRDC update us on their services and best practices to move our patients into their programs.”
Serving moms and families
In addition to working with other agencies and providing medical services such as pregnancy testing, ultrasound, STD testing and treatment, Grinnell and his staff offer a variety of programs for women, men, babies and youth.
In 2014, the organization started a men’s ministry, including an “in-depth, one-on-one mentoring program for new dads,” Grinnell said.
He headed that program before becoming ZoeCare’s executive director. The program is now called ‘beingDAD.’
“Fatherlessness is a national epidemic that severely and directly affects the livelihood and opportunity for life of children,” Grinnell said. “ZoeCare is combatting fatherlessness head-on by training new dads to be engaged fathers.”
A mentoring program for new moms, called Mom2Mom, is also offered, with another new project set to start.
‘Sweet Cheeks’ helps a new mom with free diapers for six months after the birth of her baby.
Four years ago, ZoeCare began an outreach to middle and high school students, parents and church youth groups. The program, called 45North, teaches about healthy relationships, abstinence and human value.
Three things are critical to establish connection with whomever ZoeCare interacts, Grinnell said.
“They are heard, they are accepted, and they are valued,” he said.
“I believe that as we express the value of each mother, father and child, and as that value is truly understood and accepted, we will save lives,” he said. “And change the world.”
“Zoe” is Greek for full, abundant life, and adequately describes Bozeman’s life-affirming center.
“That is what we strive for in all of our patients and their partners,” said Grinnell, “and when we see those in the mentoring programs or patients we’ve built relationships with take a step toward that fuller life, we are thrilled.”
“Since it can be hard to establish ongoing relationships with patients during an in-office appointment, much of our community impact comes through our mentoring programs,” he continued. “It is through these programs that men and women can gain the tools to make their family better, or be directed to the resources they need, and thus strengthen the community.”
Community outreach and impact
That strengthening includes outreach to churches and other entities.
“We have made it a priority to strengthen our relationship with churches, the health department, hospitals and local organizations that can help struggling mothers and fathers dealing with these decisions of life and death,” Grinnell said.
“Through our Safe Harbor ministry, we are training local churches how to be a support for those in their congregations struggling with unplanned pregnancies and how to stop abortion within the church, which is rampant these days,” he added.
According to Grinnell, there are seven abortion centers in Montana, some operated by Planned Parenthood and a few private clinics. There is no abortionist in Bozeman, so women living in the area travel elsewhere for the procedure, whether chemical or surgical.
Therefore, ZoeCare has opportunity to see those women first and make an impact for life.
“The pro-life centers and clinics throughout the state offer something none of these abortion clinics offer: love and support in Jesus’ name,” Grinnell said.
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“While individuals may be looking for a quick fix to their pregnancy ‘problem,’ their true need goes much deeper,” he said. “ZoeCare and our sister clinics and centers not only address their immediate felt need, but [also] provide that love and support that can help them live better and find lasting solutions.”
Despite the challenges of being in the pro-life arena, especially in a community that’s constantly changing and hosts a university campus, Grinnell and his staff find joy in the work they do.
“The Bozeman culture is dominated by Montana State University, where the pro-life stance is largely ridiculed as a philosophy of the past and discriminatory toward women,” Grinnell said. “Be that as it may, ZoeCare generally maintains a good reputation and relationship with MSU and the community as a place that offers valuable services and support to women and men in need.”
The center has a booth at the university’s Catapalooza event at the beginning of each school year, and a booth at the MSU Health and Wellness Fair in the spring. ZoeCare advertises in two coupon books that the students receive; the Survival Kit that comes out at the beginning of each semester, and the Pocket Guide that goes in all bookstore purchases in the fall.
“Our Sweet Cheeks diaper ministry is for everyone, but we particularly have MSU students in mind as we launch it,” said Grinnell.
ZoeCare also maintains a strong relationship with MSU’s Students for Life, including promotion of a scholarship for pregnant students.
“Every opportunity we have to show value to women and men and to express the joy of life gives us an opportunity to change our community,” he said. “ZoeCare’s goal is to equip families and individuals to live well and value life abundantly.’”
“As we are faithful to that calling, the Lord is saving lives of the unborn,” sad Grinnell. “There’s tremendous room for joy in the work we do because as we build up the community through the individuals and couples we see, we help, in a little sense, to change the world for the better.”