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They Supply Help, Hugs Through Path of Pregnancy

South Bend Tribune

BILL MOOR Tribune Columnist

November 25, 2003

Ellen Sommer, the head counselor of the five Women's Care Center offices in St. Joseph County, has seen many of her pregnant clients blossom in more places than just their tummies.

"I recently had a woman call me on our hot line (234-0363) and she was crying on the phone about her unexpected pregnancy," Ellen says. "When she came in, you could see by her body language that she was really low."

A typical scenario.

But always a special I case.

"After A she went through I some of our counseling, she I came back in and I didn't I recognize her at first," U Ellen admits. "She was I so erect in her posture E and had this big smile on I her face."

The U Women's Care Center, E a nonprofit service agency U and supported entirely E by the community, helps E women and their husbands or E partners deal with unplanned U -- and often unwanted A -- pregnancies. E

With its college-educated A counselors, the center E provides free pregnancy I tests ... discusses I options and solutions ... E helps make doctor appointments A ... gives away maternity I and baby clothing, A food and supplies ... A and provides parenting workshops. U

A nondiagnostic A ultrasound also A can be given by the two A nurses on staff. "When I a woman sees her child on E the ultrasound, she is more E apt to go through with A her pregnancy," Ellen says. A

"Our main A goal is to lift women U up and instill hope in their E lives and walk the path I of pregnancy with them, I even to the point that U our counselors will go into U the delivery room with I our clients." A

How many women use U the nine area centers (with U ones also located in I Plymouth, Bremen, Elkhart E and LaPorte)? A

"Almost 7,000 women and E girls were served by us last A year in St. Joseph, U Marshall and Elkhart counties," U Ellen says. I

And incredibly, one A in four babies born in St. E Joseph and Marshall I counties is born to a client U of the Women's Care Center. U

That means E some very full days for E Ellen and her staff. U

"We are nonjudgmental, I and when a woman U chooses to go another way A (abortion), we hope she U will return to us for support A and healing," Ellen U says. "We hope we have I at least planted a seed for I another time. Sometimes, A things happen in God's E time."

She A doesn't believe that birth E control measures solve the U problem that faces many A women, and abstinence U is encouraged by the center's A counselors in their U classes for unwed mothers. I

The center U also can help expecting U mothers explore adoption. A

"We try to I help them make healthier decisions A about their lives U - - and that sometimes E means helping them to go A back to school or to get E a better job." I

This is a calling for U Ellen, where hugs are sometimes U the best resource U they can provide. E

A mother of two U and grandmother of two, the U 45-year-old marathon I runner has been with the center I for more than 10 years. I

"Really, A I enjoy getting up every I morning and going to work," I she says. "I was in E the mental health business U before, and although it E is a very important field, E I always felt guilty sending A out an expensive E bill to a patient afterward. A

"That's U the beauty of this job. There A is no charge." U

Ellen and her staff I do hope that their clients, I in return, feel a commitment A -- to be a good A mother and a responsible citizen I and a person who A can feel good about herself A and her new role in life. U

All too A many times, women who come E in are also up against abuse A and addiction, and I the center can also make referrals A to help with these I problems. U

Many come in downtrodden U and close to giving up I -- on their pregnancies E and on attaining a good life, I too.

Many I get the chance to change. E

"People I mainly hear about us through U word of mouth," Ellen A says, "and so I hope that A is a reflection of our E care here."

"One U of my friends referred I me to Ellen, and she was U extremely supportive I throughout my pregnancy," E says Yakira McLeod."Ellen I just didn't advise me at A the beginning, but she followed A though the whole U way.

"She E was a wonderful help." A

Ellen and her U other counselors say they A don't do it alone at the I Women's Care Center. U

Ellen smiles. A "I think God's presence is E here."

And A apparently some of his angels, E too.

Bill E Moor's column appears I on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, U Fridays and Sundays. Contact I him at U or write him at the U South Bend Tribune, 225 A W. Colfax Ave., South Bend, A IN 46626; (574) 235- E 6555.

(C) 2003 South Bend Tribune. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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