TYRONE - When a woman learns she is going to have a baby, she can experience great joy. Depending on the circumstances, she can also experience fear, worry and stress.
For women who wished they had some support to get through a pregnancy, help is available through a new center.
ELM or Every Life Matters Pregnancy Support Services, 221 Hospital Drive, Suite 3, Tyrone, officially opened earlier this month to counsel and talk with pregnant women, refer them for medical or social services or offer pregnancy and fetal development education.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Volunteer Megan Sciarrillo greets a woman at the reception area at Every Life Matters Pregnancy Support Services. Laura Stine, president of the board, and Jen Harry, director, are the mothers of the children in the background. The two women worked to develop the pregnancy support center for women after realizing what it takes to carry a child and its care after birth.
The faith-based program developed when Jen Harry, director, and Laura Stine, board president, decided they wanted to help moms in the Tyrone area.
On her commute to work, Stine, a mother of three, noticed a number of young women pushing baby strollers along the streets of Tyrone, often without male companions.
"My mind would be wondering about what I could do about that," she said. "When I became a parent myself, I really realized how hard it was. Seeing those girls on the street, I wondered 'How do they do it? I have a lot of support - a husband, a home.'"
Harry, a mother of a daughter who is less than a year old, agrees that taking care of a baby can be a lot of work.
The women are friends who originally met years ago in Camp Hill and ironically ended up in Tyrone. They became acquainted while Harry was a high school student who attended Camp Hill United Methodist Church. Stine was a student at Messiah College who worked with Harry's youth group.
After college, Stine became youth leader at Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church for several years. Harry graduated from college with a degree in family and consumer sciences and taught at Tyrone middle and high schools. She also served as discipleship coordinator at Second Avenue United Methodist Church in Altoona.
Their dream for a pregnancy support center began about 2 year ago, and they decided to call it ELM. Harry noted the name ELM is not only an acronym for Every Life Matters but is associated with a tree.
"We wanted something with life [in the name]. Trees symbolize growth and life," Harry said.
After establishing a steering committee, the women formed a board and recruited volunteers to become peer advocates.
Everyone on the board and steering committee is a Christian, Harry said, and volunteers are required to sign a statement of faith.
But the center's goal is not to proselytize or preach, and no one will receive prayer or spiritual guidance unless they want it.
"We want to offer a compassionate place for women to feel supported," Harry said.
"Our goal is to make everyone comfortable," she said, adding that information shared during counseling sessions will be held in confidentiality.
She said unwed teens who are afraid to talk to their parents or are considering whether they should continue going to school are welcomed.
Harry said women who may not be emotionally close to their family or whose family lives far away or married women who may need help obtaining clothing or formula can come to the center. Even women who are wondering if they are pregnant can get help.
ELM offers free self-administered pregnancy tests, referrals for adoption and pregnancy and fetal development education. Classes are offered on exercise, prenatal nutrition and parenting.
Center clients who attend classes and receive peer counseling earn points toward the purchase of maternity clothes and items for their babies.
ELM is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.
Its peer advocates, board members, Harry and Stine received training from Care Net, a Virginia-based ministry.
According to Care Net's website, its mission is to promote a culture of life within our society in order to serve people facing unplanned pregnancies and related sexual issues.
Along with providing practical help and support, counselors at the ELM center offer clients information on the development of their babies in the hope of discouraging the termination of pregnancies.
"For example, we talk about what their baby might look like at eight weeks," Harry said. "If we're truthful and accurate, they will choose a different option. That's our hope."
The Rev. Jeff Miley of the Tyrone Church of the Brethren and a board member, said the center has several funding sources but needs support on an ongoing regular basis.
"We're trying to cultivate regular funding sources, churches that will commit a part of their budget," he said. The center would like churches to hold events where church members would donate baby items, such as diapers and wipes for clients.
Plans include purchasing a house in Tyrone, because the current donated space is temporary.
People interested in receiving services, being trained as peer counselors, or donating to the center can call 650-7899.