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Blessings House offers help for young moms, dads

by Sam Pierce | September 15, 2019 at 12:00 a.m.
Mary Kay Palmer, from left, Marla Moore, and Nancy Watson stand inside the new Blessings House Pregnancy Support Center in Sheridan. The center offers services to expectant moms and parents with babies from birth to 24 months. “We want to show Christ’s love to moms, dads and babies of the Grant County area,” Palmer said.

About a year ago, members of First Baptist Church in Sheridan went to a conference in Atlanta, called Care Net. It was a training for people who want to help young women who are pregnant.

“Mary Kay (Palmer) talked to our pastor, and he allowed her to share her heart in front of the congregation one Sunday,” Marla Moore said. “It just happened to be, the next week or so, they were having this big conference in Atlanta.

“So we just decided real quick to go, and four of us did that. And from that, we decided this is something we needed to pursue.”

By this, she means The Blessings House Pregnancy Support Center in Sheridan.

Moore and Palmer, along with a few other volunteers, recently opened the facility at 28 Gates Drive, directly behind First Baptist Church. The Blessings House has baby clothes, wipes and diapers, formula and baby food, and also has parenting classes and Bible study lessons and assistance with WIC and GED Registration. It is designed to help new and soon-to-be parents.

“The drive behind it, personally for me, is the feeling that there were mothers out there that were in an unplanned pregnancy and they might not know that they have an option other than abortion,” Palmer said. “And going down that road, exploring those options and seeing what we could do as the hands and feet of Christ.”

She said the center has morphed, changed and evolved into a pregnancy center that is for planned and unplanned pregnancies and is for mothers and fathers.

“But my desire to follow Christ, and him laying it on my heart to help people (was my main drive),” Palmer said. “We all feel the same need or desire to help, so they just kind of followed suit.”

After the four women returned from the conference, they opened it up to the church and asked anybody willing to take the 16 hour training. Moore said they trained 11 people.

“It teaches how to talk to people, not be offensive, with the main goal of leading them to Christ,” Moore said. “As they raise their family, they can bring their children up in a Christian home.”

Palmer said a lot of unwed mothers with unplanned pregnancies may feel like their life is spinning out of control.

“But if they have a support system, especially a support system based on the love of Jesus Christ, it can turn their life around,” Palmer said. “It can help them feel like they aren’t out of control and that they are on firm ground and not sinking.”

“Our original intention was to provide support and try to lead them to a pregnancy center in the area where they can help,” Moore said.

Moore said they visited other pregnancy resource centers in the area including New Beginnings in Benton and Breath of Life in Malvern. She said both centers are supported by the Arkansas Baptist Association and after visiting both places, the group decided they needed to open their own pregnancy center.

“We saw the services being used in the surrounding counties, including Saline County and Hot Spring County, and Pine Bluff and Fordyce, and the pregnancy centers there, so we just feel the need will be here, too,” Moore said.

She said the building is a former church parsonage that was empty. She said the church has been supportive and allowed them to use the building.

“It was in good enough shape, we could do a face-lift on it,” Palmer said. “We didn’t have to do a whole lot to the house.”

Palmer said the house opened the last week of August, so there are still a lot of unknowns.

“We know God has a plan,” Palmer said. “We are still figuring out where our clients are going to come from. We have contacted many of the local agencies that help people and may be in these situations.

“We know that we are going to get the clients, we just aren’t sure how deep the need is. But we know there is a need, or we wouldn’t be sitting here today.”

Palmer said the center in Benton sees about 70 to 80 women a week.

“We also want to be sure to let people know that we are here for men, too,” Palmer said. “I think men are left out of the equation a lot, especially in unplanned pregnancies, because they may feel like they don’t have a voice or know what to do or what resources are available.”

One of the ways for expectant moms and parents to earn items is through Parent Points, by completing specific activities. Accumulated points can be redeemed for things such as diapers, wipes and other baby items. Parent Points can be earned by attending church, donating items back to the closet or memorizing Scripture.

“We do have a Parent Points program, which is a earn as you learn concept,” Palmer said. “It is real easy to pack a diaper bag, hand it to them, hug their neck and let them leave.

“We want them to feel like they are taking responsibility in their child’s future and, in return, we will build strong families and strong families will build strong communities.”

She said the Blessings House offers different programs such as in-depth Bible studies and lactation classes.

“As they do these classes, they earn points, and they can go into the Blessings Closet and redeem their points,” Palmer said.

“Most of the things that we provide in our Blessings Closet are gently used, but not everything, some of it is new,” Moore said. “They can get a lot of helpful supplies for their child and it is all free, except for their time for participating in the classes.”

Palmer said they can also earn points by showing proof of a well-baby check-up, or proof of a GED test or a current paycheck stub.

“Our goal is to get them in a Bible study, obviously,” Palmer said. “But we are going to love them regardless of how they choose to earn their points.”

Other programs that new moms and dads can participate in, include Helping You Grow Strong, or HUGS.

Palmer said it is an eight-week individually paced course in which parents can earn a diaper-bag full of brand-new baby items.

“There is about $80 worth of stuff they can take home at the end of the eight weeks — or however it takes them to complete it,” Palmer said. “And that’s for men and women.”

She said they have another Bible study, called Embrace Grace, which is a semester long and is for young mothers. She said it is geared toward pregnant mothers, but is not limited to them.

“It is set up like a support group,” Moore said. “And we will have child care during that, if the women have other children.

“Upon completion of that, the women will receive a baby shower and a ‘princess day,’ or spa day.”

Palmer said a couple with a new baby have already signed up. The father did the Bible study and the mom participated in a program specifically for young women, she said.

“We know there is a demand, we just don’t know where it is going to come from or how quick,” Palmer said. “We just have to trust God on that.”

Palmer said she also wanted to make it clear that the Blessings House is not medical.

“We are not doing ultrasounds or pregnancy tests or any type of counseling,” Palmer said.

“We are trying to cover it all,” Moore said. “Whatever the need is, we want to try to meet it. Once these items are depleted, I don’t think we are going to have any trouble restocking.

“… I just don’t have any worries about that.”

The Blessings House is open on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Wednesdays from noon to 6 p.m. and the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. For more information, call (870) 942-7755 or email theblessingshouse@gmail.com.

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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