By Maria Wiering
ARBUTUS – As thousands of Ravens fans celebrated the Super Bowl win with a parade and rallies Feb. 4, another milestone was commemorated on East Street, as the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns held a grand opening for its fourth center.
The pregnancy resource center is the first the organization has opened west of Baltimore City. Other sites are located in Canton, Dundalk and Essex. The Canton center is hosted by St. Brigid and the Dundalk center is hosted by St. Rita.
The Arbutus center opened Jan. 5. Like the other centers, it offers free pregnancy testing, peer counseling, baby clothes and supplies, information on prenatal development and abortion procedures, parenting preparation classes, and referrals to community resources, including housing, health care and adoption services. It also offers sonograms and post-abortion grief counseling.
Allison Benson, the Arbutus center’s coordinator, said her goal is to help families.
“We are pro-life. We are here to support the women to keep, parent or place babies for adoption,” she said.
A former Canton center volunteer who led a young moms’ support group, Benson wanted to start a new site in partnership with Matt’s House, a nondenominational church in Arbutus founded and led by her husband Rob, who sits on the center’s board.
The Bensons have been working to bring the center to Arbutus for four years. Benson was compelled to start a new center by her experiences with struggling single mothers or couples in the area, she said.
The site is near the campuses of University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and The Community College of Baltimore County. Benson hopes the proximity to college-age students will draw volunteers and women seeking help, she said.
Each week, the Arbutus center is open 18 hours, which vary based on volunteers’ availability. It is always open on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m.
The Saturday hours dovetail with those of Pregnancy Center West, an unaffiliated pregnancy resource center located five miles north of the Arbutus center in Catonsville, which is open Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.
Benson hopes to expand the Arbutus center’s hours and is seeking more volunteers and financial and material donations. She also hopes the center will attract the support of local churches.
The majority of the center’s clients are seeking material assistance such as baby supplies, Benson said. Most are women, but the center also helps fathers who have custody of their children.
One client told Benson he was parenting alone because of the mother’s drug addiction, and needed help during the transition of caring for his infant son.
“This is what we’re here for – to love on people,” Benson said. “That’s why we’re here – to serve.”
She said that it has been exciting to see what she calls “the God stories” – “seeing how God has been providing and takes care of his people.”
This has manifested in the generosity of others, from volunteers giving their time to donations to cover the center’s operating expenses.
Carol Clews, executive director of the Center for Pregnancy Concerns, has had the same experience, she said.
“Just when you run out of something, and you are desperate, a church will call or a woman will come by and it will be exactly what you need. It is unbelievable. I’ve seen it happen time and time again,” she said.
Founded in 1980, the Center for Pregnancy Concerns is the oldest urban pregnancy resource center in the country. Its volunteers see about 1,000 clients each year.
Because it is the only Center for Pregnancy Concerns in the western Baltimore area, Clews said the organization has high expectations for the Arbutus center.
“I think we’re going to get a pretty good flow of clients once the word gets out,” she said.