A local center that helps women and their babies moved to a bigger and better location this week.
In His Image Pregnancy Resource Center has moved around the corner and up the hill, from 218 Martin St., where they have been since 2003, to 432 E. Commerce St. The new location is a one-story brick building formerly home of TNWEB. It's more visible and has almost 800 square feet more floor space, according to executive director Shirley Lowe.
Visibility is a big asset, she said.
"A lot of people do not know we are here," said Lowe. "I know there's people out there that need us."
Painters were still working Monday afternoon, as the Rev. Paul Lucas and men from Mt. Moriah Baptist Church carried in furniture, Lowe said. The painters donated their time, and several churches had taken charge of decorating a room each.
"We're hoping not to miss a beat," said Lowe, adding that three women had counseling appointments at the new location Tuesday morning.
The group's Facebook page explains what they do: "In His Image PRC is a non-profit center that offers compassionate support and assistance to anyone facing a crisis pregnancy. We provide a safe, non-threatening environment that will minister to your needs, be it friendship, understanding, or a hand up. We provide free, confidential pregnancy tests, information about pregnancy decisions, referrals for medical and social services, pre- and post-natal counseling, and clothing and other baby items. We also teach abstinence classes in the community schools."
"We do a lot down here," Lowe said. "Anybody that needs our services - we're here for them."
In 2009, the center had 62 clients. "The economy makes it so hard for some of these young mothers," Lowe exclaimed. The center can provide diapers, wipes, clothing, and cribs - the things not covered by state programs.
She says they do not facilitate adoptions, though they have two agencies they can refer pregnant women to. They haven't had an adoption lately: "Most of our young mothers keep their babies," Lowe said.
Executive director since 2008, Lowe, a Realtor by trade, is paid part-time, but says she works many more hours than she's paid for.
"When you love what you do and know you're making a difference it's worthwhile," she explained. "I do this with my heart."
Eighteen to 20 volunteers help her keep the center's services going, and some of them are trained as peer counselors.
"We never take money from clients," Lowe said. They don't take government funding either, so the center depends on donations from individuals, businesses and churches, and also on fundraisers.
A major fundraiser is the baby bottle campaign, where empty baby bottles are handed out at area churches on Mothers Day, and brought back - hopefully full of coins and paper money - on Fathers Day.
Next week the center is due to get a share of the profits from a concert by Michael Kelley at LifeSong Family Church on Tuesday, May 4 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available from the church, or from any In His Image volunteer or board member.
Kelley is described as a "vocal impressionist," and his program is called "Voices that Change." Lowe says she's heard he can do voices ranging from Ray Charles to Willie Nelson, and says it's all "good clean comedy."