Women in Northern California’s Yolo County, just west of Sacramento, will soon have full access to pregnancy help, thanks to a motor home outfitted to bring services right to them from Spero, formerly Pregnancy Support Group of Woodland, Calif.
Spero’s 38-foot Damon RV features three four-foot-wide slide-out sections that expand the interior into living-room-style areas for client education as well as a private medical office space larger than some doctor’s offices. Cargo holds will stock all the supplies clients can earn with their Mommy Bucks, from formula and diapers to high chairs and strollers.
Further, once Spero’s medical license is in hand, staff will be able to provide women in any part of the county with medical ultrasounds, nurse-administered pregnancy tests, testing and treatment for STIs, and Abortion Pill Reversal.
Carol Duty, executive director of Spero, an affiliate of Heartbeat International, said purchasing the mobile unit dovetailed providentially with her center’s rebranding efforts and shifted their five-year plan into high gear.
The Spero Bus: Dream Becomes Reality
Research on their ministry’s effectiveness had revealed two important insights to the board of the former Pregnancy Support Group. First, after 34 years they were widely recognized as offering women hope in challenging pregnancy situations. Second, they still weren’t reaching the most abortion-minded and abortion-vulnerable women in their county’s very separate, rural communities.
“We're the only pregnancy resource center in Yolo County,” Duty said. “But we realized over the last five years especially that we were not reaching our demographic, because girls don't want to be pregnant, so they don't want to be ‘supported’ in their pregnancies. What they want help with is how they're going to deal with the problem they didn't expect.”
Consulting with Jacob Barr and the team at iRapture, Duty’s board eventually settled on the new single-word name “Spero” (Latin for hope) and the tagline, “Where hope lives.”
Next question: How to get that message of hope out to the women who need it?
“We had just received a grant of $28,000 for education and outreach from a private foundation,” Duty said. Spero ticked off the education piece by purchasing updated Earn While You Learn curriculum. Shortly afterward, they migrated to the subscription-based streaming platform, BrightCourse, opening up even more flexible educational options for clients.
But the outreach piece seemed to hover farther ahead in the future, in their plans to go medical and to go mobile. Then that all changed.
“Literally within days, we realized that A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic in Yuba City, 45 minutes down the road from us, was selling their mobile unit,” Duty said. “It had been purposely outfitted as a medical mobile clinic, containing an ultrasound table, a stage for housing an ultrasound unit, and a little desk, all in a nice area where you can easily move around.”
Duty scheduled a walk-through with A Woman’s Friend executive director Kristen Bird, knowing the $25,000 left of their grant after purchasing curriculum—and potentially a branded wrap for the RV—would have to suffice for their offer. “At morning prayers that day, I told my staff, ‘It doesn’t really belong to us if we have to spend more money than what’s left of what we have been given,’" she said.
When the two directors met, Duty told Bird of Spero’s desire to reach women scattered among Yolo County’s smaller rural communities, 80% of whom have no easy access to transportation. In addition, Spero already stood poised to tackle the paperwork and staffing required to apply for a medical license from the State of California.
Bird and her board immediately realized the mobile unit would be a much better fit for Yolo County than it had been for their own community. So they accepted Spero’s offer, even though it fell significantly below their asking price.
“We wanted the mobile unit to continue doing what it was doing and stay with a pregnancy center,” Bird said. “What they wanted to do with it in Woodland really touched our hearts for them to able to use it in that way to bring education, and in the future to bring medical services themselves.”
A Bus, a Booth, and a Billboard
Spero’s new mobile center began its soft launch at speaking engagements, a golf tournament fundraiser, and their banquet. “We've had it out just showing it, so people can walk in and get the vision of what we're doing with it,” Duty said. “People feel encouraged that we can move past our walls and help the girls in our community, which includes all these little towns in Yolo County.”
But the vehicle’s most public soft launch comes August 14-18, at the Yolo County Fair.
On donated space in the midway, Spero will move their usual fair presence out of the exhibit hall and into the midst of the crowds. “Our target audience—the 20- to 25-year-olds and teens—they're not walking through the exhibit hall. Now we'll be out where they're going on rides, playing games, and buying food, so people will see us and know about us. It’s a huge traveling billboard.”
Visitors can tour the mobile unit and learn which days it will bring its current services to their areas.
Advance advertising is also promoting Spero’s free ultrasounds to be offered live at the fair again—this year in the privacy of the vehicle. Meanwhile passing crowds can watch the anonymous child in utero on a big outdoor screen.
“People are fascinated; they can't help themselves,” Duty said of past years’ experiences. “When they realize it's a live ultrasound, they're like, ‘You're kidding, that's happening right now?’”
“I also like to watch the people farther away, girls that are just staring at these ultrasounds with tears in their eyes, and you know something's up with them,” she said. “Often I'll have an opportunity to talk to them, when they've quietly, peacefully seen the reality and changed their minds and decided to keep their babies.”
For other women, the images lead them to seek post-abortion healing through Spero’s recovery program.
For all these women and their partners, such moments can be life-changing. “It's just a blip of time that they happened to be walking by our booth and saw the image,” Duty said. “That to me is worth all the work it takes to get out there. Even if it was just one person.”
Next, Spero Medical
Not content to offer women only the images without any medical insight, Spero is now finishing up their application to the State of California for medical licensing. Medical staff is already in place. “We have a volunteer medical director, a paid nurse manager, two volunteer nurses, and a medical advisory board,” Duty said.
Although Pregnancy Support Group applied for a medical license nine years ago, Spero is now building upon a stronger medical team, a larger building, and a medical-ready mobile unit, coupled with guidance from NIFLA, nurse training through Focus on the Family, and wisdom from the previous experience.
This time Spero’s team is better equipped to fend off any more potential mishandling of its application by a state notorious for obstructing pro-life work.
Duty, however, is quick to point out that ultimately it will be the grace of God that allows Spero Medical to provide all its educational and medical services—whether in its brick-and-mortar office, or out in communities where Yolo County women will no longer have to struggle to access the help and hope they need.