Support for the Plus One Guidance Center has been phenomenal in the four years since it opened at 35 Market St. S.E.
Since then, client advocates have worked with more than 125 mothers-to-be, supporting them through programs like Plus One, for pregnant women; Empower You, which teaches how to care for young children; and Healthy U, a program for teens to help them make healthy life choices.
They have both Spanish and Karen interpreters, and have curriculum in Spanish as well. All of the services they offer are free.
“We are completely community supported,” said Director Mary Helen Wipf. “It has been amazing.”
Holy Trinity Catholic Church recently held its Roses for Life promotion, with 600 roses bringing in $975.
The Center is just wrapping up its Baby Bottle fundraiser, where 520 blue baby bottles were distributed to churches, businesses and individuals to be filled with change, bills and checks. This promotion has raised more than $6,500 to date, and more baby bottles are expected to be returned.
If anyone would like to be part of the Baby Bottle campaign, they can call the Center at 605-554-3330.
“The James Valley Christian junior class got all the labels on the bottles for us, then they dispersed them to the churches and made arrangements to get them back,” Wipf said.
They hosted a pizza party for the students after the baby bottles were collected and helped empty the coins, bills and checks that had been tucked inside.
“There are buckets of money,” Wipf added. “A couple kids came to the bank and carried money in for me.”
The De Smet Teens for Life has helped distribute and collect baby bottles for the last three years.
“They came a different night and emptied their bottles,” Wipf said. “It’s just fun to have those kids come, and we like the fact that they’re coming in and being aware of the Center. If they have friends they can say, this is a good place, a safe place. It’s okay.”
Wipf, who also teaches at Our Home, said Josh Jetto, a former minister at Living Hope Alliance Church, is credited with getting the Plus One Guidance Center started.
“They had a young lady come to their house who needed help,” Wipf said. “She was pregnant and needed help and he discovered there was nobody in town to provide services. It came out of that.”
They expanded their space in 2017 to provide more room for their Baby Boutique, which provides maternity and baby clothes and accessories, as well as meeting rooms and storage.
And people are utilizing the services they provide. Last year, they averaged 10 client visits per month, this year that number is up to 18 client visits per month. They have two staff members and 23 client advocates, volunteers who help in a myriad of ways.
“Obviously we need advocates to see clients and go through the curriculum with them weekly,” Wipf said. “We have a client advocate who just manages the boutique, some work at the front desk, and one is interested in coming when we’re not open to just clean.
“We’re getting busier and busier, we don’t have time to do that anymore,” she added.
The Center is open 12 hours a week plus appointments. Regular hours are from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
“If anyone is interested in volunteering, we have a lot of things we can help them do,” Wipf said. “If you’re interested in volunteering or donating, just call us or email and we can make those arrangements.”
Clients earn points through participation in the programs, and those points are redeemable in the Baby Boutique for clothing and baby products.
“We will serve clients until the baby is 2, and our goal is to have them established with another support system at that point,” Wipf said. “We want to empower them but not enable them.”
As they work with girls, women and couples facing an unplanned pregnancy, Wipf said their hope is always for the baby to be carried to term. But whatever the woman’s choice, they will be there to offer support, Wipf added.
“We provide assistance before, during and after pregnancy, and we see all ages — from 13 to 30s,” she said.
“We have not had a mom choose to make a plan of adoption yet,” she added. “We have definitely intervened and been able to save the lives of babies.”