The day of my first visit to Loving Choices is an uncharacteristically cold day for Northwest Arkansas. Then again, that has been pretty normal this winter. I pull into the small parking lot behind the house, just a few blocks away from the campus of the University of Arkansas. I had heard a lot about this place, and I am anxious to see it for myself.
A volunteer is waiting for me at the door with a warm smile. She shows me a few of the rooms while I wait for the person I am meeting with. "You came in the back door, but this is where the clients would normally first come in." I look around at the entryway and waiting area, beautifully and thoughtfully decorated, and again I'm struck by the warmth. I can imagine what a relief it would be for a woman in crisis to walk through the door and be wrapped up in that warmth. To be reassured with every interaction, whether with a receptionist, a nurse, or a counselor… that this is a safe place.
The Staff at Loving Choices are dedicated to helping women in need, no matter their age or stage in life, who find themselves dealing with an unplanned pregnancy or a reproductive crisis. They provide free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, STD testing, and counseling. They also offer a long term mentoring and education program for women who choose to parent their child. The Care Center helps equip women with parenting and life skills, and also provides opportunities for building community in the midst of a new season of life full of unique challenges. Those who choose to participate in this program are able to earn "Mommy Bucks," which can then be used to purchase items from the "Mommy Boutique," including diapers, baby clothes, maternity clothes, car seats, strollers, and cribs.
Loving Choices has locations in both Rogers and Fayetteville. Together they serve at least 72 women each week. Director of Development Jan Hixson says there are many opportunities to get involved, "You can be a crisis volunteer, where you actually counsel women who come through the front door. We also need volunteers in our Care Center, women to work in our boutique, and really just talk to the girls as they come through the door. Maybe you hold their baby when they go into their counseling session."
Jan says there are also opportunities to get involved as a counselor in the Care Program. "Those are the women who go into the counseling room, and once they start on a shift, typically they see the same women week after week. So you build relationships and you're really able to talk to and mentor those women."
I don't know how it feels to be in the situations these women are in. But I do know how it feels to need a safe place to work through life challenges I didn't anticipate. This makes me appreciate anyone making an effort to create a place like this for other women who are facing even more difficult circumstances. Loving Choices is doing everything they can to let these women know, they are not alone. And I love that about them.
If you'd like to learn more about Loving Choices, visit their website: www.lovingchoices.org.