A grand opening celebration of the headquarters for an Options Pregnancy Center in Alpena, Mich., will take place Jan. 13 at 1 p.m.
The public is invited to see the center housed in newly refurbished office space at 139 W. Washington, adjacent to the dental practice of Dr. Tony Skiba. It is a place where young women facing an unexpected pregnancy can come for free pregnancy tests, confidential support, information about available options and healthy relationship coaching.
"The Options Pregnancy Center is simply here to help young ladies of the community if they find themselves in an unwanted pregnancy," said Board President Mike Cornelius. "We realize that an unexpected pregnancy can be a time of great pressure, uncertainty and even fear. A young lady will make a decision which will affect her life forever."
He also said the center's purpose is to support young women, encourage them and supply information so that they can make well-informed decisions.
According to Cornelius, compassionate help has been available in the local area for more than 30 years via a pregnancy telephone hotline. He credits Sylvia Owen with first starting the initiative to assist young women facing unexpected pregnancies.
Now, the seven-member board at the Options Pregnancy Center, as well as others who support the effort to offer solutions other than abortion, hope to get the word out that there is a concrete place to go for help. The center employs one part-time director, a slot currently filled by Emily Potter.
"This is a place of support and encouragement," Potter said. "We would rather someone come here to let them know they don't need to make a decision without knowing other choices are available."
In addition to providing free pregnancy tests, support and information, she said the center offers post-abortion counseling.
A native of Virginia, Potter and her husband, Mike, moved to Alpena a year ago when her husband accepted the pastorship of Tri-Point Church of God. Prior to relocating here, she said they both were involved in full-time teen ministry and saw first-hand the angst and repercussions that came with unexpected pregnancies.
"I decided to get involved here in Alpena after having seen so many kids go through unplanned pregnancies, and the tough relationship choices and decisions that lead to a continued cycle of poverty," Potter said.
In addition to her position, the center has a full contingent of volunteers who are ready to step in as needed. The volunteers include 17 client advocates who under went the required training, plus receptionists. Some of the client advocates are male, who will be available to talk with male partners.
The center became operational on an appointment only basis in October 2015, but with the upcoming grand opening hours of operation will be Monday from 1-7 p.m., Tuesday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
"At least two volunteers will be at the center at all times during the hours of operation, plus myself most of the time," Potter said.
The center offices include a reception area, waiting area, bathroom facility and comfortable area for those taking pregnancy tests, a multi-purpose room for counseling and study, a training/board meeting room and the director's office.
As time goes on, Potter said additional inservice training with other agencies in the area will be planned to make sure client advocates can help plug clients into other social services already available. In the meantime, she has been making visits to local schools and groups in an effort to get the word out about the center. Additionally, she is increasing the center's presence on social media.
"We want to let everyone know that we are here and that we are a safe place," Potter said.
Funding for the center comes through donations from both individuals and area churches, as well as fundraising events. Anyone wanting to volunteer or help may call 354-6089.
Originally appeared Jan. 7 at The Alpena News. Reprinted with permission.