One of the biggest fundraisers each year for the Ashe Pregnancy Care Center is its walk. Each October, individuals and families come out in support of the center. Some of the participants are not old enough to walk but they are the same age as some of the babies the center helps.
In Roger Newton’s five years leading the Ashe Pregnancy Care Center he has seen the need for pregnancy ministries rise – not only in Ashe County, but across North Carolina.
The economic downturn has made unexpected pregnancies even more of a crisis for many. He has seen more families as well as grandmothers raising children.
“The thing that I’ve seen grow is the need to help in these first three critical years” of childhood, Newton said. “It’s hard for moms to go back to work after having a baby.”
The center averages between 30 and 50 clients a month. While most of the clients are women, Newton has seen a good number of men over the years through counseling and parenting classes.
The center began in the mid-1990s because leaders in the area saw a need, “even in our little county to provide information and to provide alternatives to abortion,” Newton said.
While abortions are not performed in Ashe County, Newton said 35 abortions were reported for Ashe County more than five years ago when he became director of the center. That number has dropped by 10 since then. Women head to Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Raleigh or other cities for abortion services.
Newton stressed that Ashe County still has a big need for this type of ministry.
While Ashe County doesn’t top the list of the most impoverished counties, it ranks several percentage points above some of the more metropolitan areas, where donations tend to be higher.
Jobs are also sparse. Ashe County has a high suicide rate because it is a difficult area to live in because there are not many jobs, said Newton.
“We’ve seen more husbands and boyfriends out of work,” Newton said.
The center helps not only with counseling about abortion alternatives but offers incentives – called baby bucks – to people who watch or attend parenting classes or videos. The center provides diapers, formula and supplies up to age 3. They offer a Bible study and one-on-one peer counseling.
One of the seven board members is a 15-year-old girl who was a client.
“So many want to help after they’ve been helped,” Newton said.
The center is affiliated with the North American Mission Board and works closely with local churches and Ashe Missionary Baptist Association. The center also works with Ashe Really Cares, a ministry associated with the local Baptist association. Together they help clients get housing, food, and other supplies.
Newton said he prays Sanctity of Life Sunday Jan. 22 will help “get the word out” for his center and for others across the state who are reaching out to this underserved section of the population.
Sanctity of Life Sunday, as well as public service announcements on the radio, spread the word about the pregnancy center. Newton emphasizes that word of mouth continues to be the best way people find out about the center and its services.
The center hosted an event inviting the public to attend a bazaar for people with home businesses to share about their ministry.
The center’s biggest fundraiser is the first Saturday in October when they host a walk for life. Newton, a minister and former IMB missionary looks for opportunities to speak in churches about the ministry and occasionally fill in for pastors who need someone to preach.
The center recently partnered with Wilkes Community College’s Ashe campus to help clients get their GED. Directed by the college, Newton said clients are tested by someone from the campus. Center volunteers then tutor the clients to get them ready for the GED exam. Newton said a high school degree or the equivalent GED is required to even work in a fast food restaurant. Twelve students are currently preparing for the GED.
Another recent offering is cloth diapers. One of the center’s board members makes cloth diapers, and the center has purchased some to make available for those who request it.
Stories of hope
One of the common misconceptions about pregnancy centers is the kind of clients they see, said Newton. Many mistakenly believe that most clients are teenagers, but Newton said the pregnancy center sees women mainly in their mid-20s. The youngest client is 14. The oldest are grandmothers raising their grandchildren. With teenagers, they usually get help from parents or the school they attend. But the early to mid-20s is the “most abortion vulnerable” age, Newton said.
“It’s much more of a crisis, at least an inconvenience,” he said. This group usually no longer has a parent helping them.
One woman with five children sought help from the center after her second set of twins.
Her husband, who worked in the building trade, developed breathing problems and was unable to work.
“She’s now going back to school,” Newton said, “and she’s gotten into a church. Christ has changed her life.”
Another married mom who was a bank teller lost her job. Her husband lost his job. She was feeding her baby sugar water to try to get by, but Newton said Ashe Pregnancy Care Center was able to help by providing counseling as well as food, diapers and other supplies.
“Sometimes we are just a bridge over the crisis that they have,” he said.
Planning for the future
Through the local Baptist association, the Ashe pregnancy center created an account with the North Carolina Baptist Foundation.
“We don’t have very much in it yet,” said Newton, but he hopes the interest will begin contributing to the ministry soon. “Some people like to give money that will help for years and years to come.”
The center is also waiting on word about a bank loan to purchase a place. Currently it is located in a strip mall. Newton said the current, rented location has allowed them to help a church plant that started in the same shopping center. Members used the center for the church’s nursery. The church is now located in a larger building. He believes finding a permanent place will allow the center to spread its ministry even further and help give families in the county a better chance.
The center is open three days – Tuesdays through Thursdays from noon to 5 p.m. or by appointment. Contact Newton at (336) 846-4100 or visit https://sites.google.com/site/ashepregnancycarecenter/.