The New Hope Pregnancy Care Center has been making plans to expand its facility to accommodate medical staff and equipment.
CEO and Executive Director Tracie Shellhouse made a public announcement of that fact during a meeting of the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club on Thursday.
The organization’s board has voted to turn the pregnancy counseling center into a medical facility, complete with a nurse and equipment to allow expectant mothers to receive free ultrasounds.
New Hope is a Christian crisis pregnancy center with the the ongoing goal of helping people facing unplanned pregnancies evaluate their options, Shellhouse said.
While she said the nonprofit center is “very much pro-life,” trained counselors educate moms-to-be on the options they have if they do not want to raise the child — from adoption to abortion. While Shellhouse said the center’s staff members always hope mothers will decide not to pursue abortion, they feel it is important to know about it. For example, she said many do not know it is a medical procedure that could have implications for the mother.
“Without knowledge, people perish,” Shellhouse said. “Of course, we want them to choose life.”
A major emphasis of the center is giving mothers resources to help them carry their babies to term and raise them well. In addition to the initial pregnancy counseling, there is also help available throughout the pregnancy.
Since three local women banded together to found it in 1985, the center has grown to include a variety of programs to help not just mothers, but fathers as well.
One program New Hope offers is the “Earn While You Learn” program. Expecting parents attend free classes on everything from breastfeeding to infant CPR, and they in turn earn something called “Baby Bucks,” which can be redeemed for free baby supplies.
Shellhouse said being able to earn things for their baby has helped relieve the stress of many parents they have seen, and “financial stress” is a factor playing a part in many people deciding to terminate their pregnancies.
Another program focuses on fathers. The “Fatherhood Fraternity” is a support group for men who want to be good fathers.
Shellhouse said many pregnancy centers focus solely on mothers and their needs. However, there are men who wish to be good fathers even if the pregnancy was unplanned, and some “godly men” in the community have stepped up to help lead men who visit the center through the process of becoming fathers.
Other programs include grief support groups for mothers who have lost their babies to either miscarriage or abortions.
The center, which has two locations in Cleveland, has continually seen growth in the number of clients, and Shellhouse said she is excited about being able to offer ultrasounds to mothers facing unplanned pregnancies.
“It’s going to save lives. ... It’s going to draw more and more people to New Hope Pregnancy Center,” she said. “We’re going to be offering things that no one else in our area can offer.”
Shellhouse has previously worked at Christian pregnancy support centers in other states. She told the story of a woman in Alabama who decided to carry her baby to term after seeing an unborn child “wave” by moving its hand in a way that could be seen on the ultrasound screen.
The center expects being able to offer everything from pregnancy tests and ultrasounds to parenting classes will ultimately have “huge” impacts on the lives of families in Cleveland, said Shellhouse. These changes are coming at a time when the organization is seeing more and more clients.
In 2013, the center saw more than 1,000 clients — everyone from women and teenage girls taking free pregnancy tests to men looking for resources to help the women in their lives.
That number represented a 42.5 percent increase over the previous year, Shellhouse said.
She said she was also happy to report that about 87 percent of the clients who learned they were pregnant chose to give birth to their babies; there were 42 born last year.
While the number might not indicate an overall increase in unplanned pregnancies, she stressed it means more people are seeking the center’s help and getting it.
The center has its main location on Mouse Creek Road and a satellite location on Blythe Avenue, inside the Family Support Center.
Shellhouse said the board nearly decided to close the satellite location a few years ago because so few clients were visiting it. Last year, the number of clients saw a 252 percent increase, and she said “God had other plans.”
“New Hope is growing,” she said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled.”
For more information about the organization, visit www.newhopepcc.org.