The Pregnancy Resource Clinic staff at the State College location. Back Row, from left to right: Corrine Sharkey; Laurie Kellermeyer, RN; Chelsea Lahr; and Miranda Smith. Front Row: Jenny Summers; Sheila Cole; and Mariele Schecter. (Photo by Darren Andrew Weimert)
Since 1984, downtown State College’s Pregnancy Resource Clinic (PRC) has provided the community with vital services such as pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and STD testing, as well as parenting education and resources, to those who need them most. While 2020 was a challenging year for the nonprofit, PRC continues to grow and serve.
Jenny Summers, executive director at PRC for the past 12 years, says that, while the clinic’s services have evolved and expanded to better provide for the needs of the more than 50 local families impacted by their work over the past year, she and her team of staff and volunteers are still fulfilling PRC’s mission: to encourage, educate and empower men and women to make informed life choices.
“Between Centre County and Clinton County, we served approximately 65 different families this past year. That would have been more [families] had COVID not occurred, but we’ve pivoted and served our families a little differently than we have before,” she says.
Beyond providing services like ultrasounds and STD testing, PRC also offers parents basic necessities, from formula and baby clothes to gas gift cards so that parents can more easily travel for doctors’ appointments. In 2020, though, PRC looked to ensure families’ most basic needs were met as well.
“We’ve never provided toilet paper before. That’s been an interesting need that we’re happy to meet …” Summers says with a laugh, recalling the last year’s shortages. “We do have people who have had to travel out of town for doctor’s appointments, so providing gas cards is something we’ve done more of. … When people can’t come in to meet, we’ve been able to email them Walmart or Target gift cards. The way we’ve shared our funds and the gifts given to us have looked different this year.”
PRC has also referred families to local food drives over the last year, as well as to other local organizations that may be able to help in ways PRC can’t. Summers notes that domestic violence has been on the rise among the client base over the last few months, a situation wherein PRC refers clients to Centre Safe. An increase in domestic violence during stay-at-home orders has been an international issue, with some studies reporting a 300 percent increase in police reports of intimate-partner violence fueled by pandemic effects and mitigation strategies.
STD testing was also in higher demand in 2020.
“STDs are up because people are lonely, isolated, and scared,” explains Summers. “Sexual activity and intimacy are happening more and people are having unprotected sex. We had a 28 percent chlamydia positivity rate for our clients in October, and that’s really high.”
Still, pandemic or no, the foundation of PRC’s mission – to encourage, educate, and empower families – is built on two of its most popular services.
“The community-funded pregnancy tests and ultrasounds are probably the most utilized and most impactful [services we offer],” says Summers. “The ultrasound helps our clients make decisions about their pregnancies. We have clients who are scared and they terminate their pregnancies – and we don’t refer or provide abortions at PRC – but having a pregnancy test, an ultrasound, and the education help clients make informed decisions.”
Even when a decision to terminate or carry a pregnancy comes into play, though, Summers says she’s noticed changes over the course of the pandemic as well.
“It seems our clients are now more inclined to carry. They’re rethinking life right now and being more thoughtful in their decisions,” she says. “They’re choosing to continue their pregnancies.”
Expanding its footprint
The pandemic didn’t halt PRC’s progress over 2020 and now into 2021, even if it did change the way things work at the nonprofit’s office on South Pugh Street. Over the year, PRC worked to expand its physical footprint, starting to offer services in Clinton County and moving into a second building in State College, next door to the current location. Moving forward, PRC will provide medical services in one building and support services in another. Previously, PRC was making use of space in local churches as needed.
“The current building we’re in at 423 South Pugh Street will be mostly medical services,” explains Summers. “Another important component of what we do is provide support to moms, dads, and their children through pregnancy and parenting education. For years, we’ve provided a support group called Pregnancy and Parenting Connections. We’ve outgrown our space, so we started meeting in local churches. … Now, because of COVID, we’ve found we’ll have to move back to individual meetings with our families to provide the education they need, because they’re concerned about meeting in a group setting. This addition offers more space [for that and] to have our baby boutique, where we provide diapers, wipes, clothing, and small baby items.”
The newly-offered services in Clinton County are part of a greater goal to eventually establish a permanent physical location in Lock Haven. However, until that goal can be realized, PRC used the pandemic as momentum to begin offering what assistance they could to families in need in the area.
“We’ve had a dream for the last five years to start services in Clinton County and, because of COVID, it required me to think about that mission differently,” says Summers. “We sought out the help of a local church in Lock Haven and began providing services there, providing diapers, wipes, clothing, formula, and gas cards. If COVID hadn’t happened, that might not have gotten off the ground as quickly as it did. COVID forced us to think differently and be more creative than maybe we had been before.”
All of the work that PRC has accomplished over the last year, Summers stresses, couldn’t have occurred without the help of the organization’s dedicated donor base, many of whom have continued to financially support PRC since its founding nearly three decades ago.
“Adding the second building has been encouraging for me, to see how the world’s been quiet, but God’s still moving. We’re a faith-based, Christian organization supported by churches and donors. It’s been fun to see God bless what we’re doing. We haven’t seen a major drop in funding, as our donors continue to give. That’s a true testament that they believe in what we do. They want to see PRC thrive,” she says. “Every single human has this pandemic in common and it’s affecting us regardless of what we believe or if we agree. We’re all affected and our donors believe in what we do.”
PRC hosts a handful of major fundraisers per year, including an annual banquet at the Bryce Jordan Center, that attracted nearly a thousand attendees in 2019. The 2020 banquet was converted to a virtual event and discussions are still up in the air regarding a 2021 event. PRC also hosts a 5K event in the fall, which was able to continue as planned in 2020.
New year, new goals
As PRC looks ahead to the rest of 2021, new opportunities arise for clients, including an online program that allows moms and dads to take advantage of the organization’s educational resources remotely.
“We’ll have an online curriculum for our moms and dads, so they’ll be able to [learn] from home and also at the clinic, where they can pick and choose the courses they’d like to complete in their pregnancy and parenting journey. We’re thankful we’ll start that program in the spring. … It gives the option for moms and dads to do some education remotely, and then we’ll follow up with either a phone or in-person meeting to answer questions and go over some education,” explains Summers.
The team is also hoping to raise more funds and finalize more of the plans for a physical Lock Haven location.
“We have about $100,000 we have to raise in order to build in Lock Haven. … Right now we’re weighing our options and building funds, at the same time we’re serving the community, which is building momentum and showing the community what we can do,” Summers says.
Another project for 2021? Starting up a fatherhood program to meet the needs of fathers whose wives already take advantage of PRC’s many services.
While this and PRC’s other goals for the new year are made possible by the organization’s team – which includes a medical director, registered nurses, phlebotomists, and registered diagnostic medical sonographers – Summers also puts a large emphasis on PRC’s volunteers and their impact, even if many were unable to volunteer during the pandemic due to being in a high-risk demographic. Plenty of new volunteer opportunities abound for those interested in joining the cause.
“We need office volunteers, and board and committee members who are interested in helping with fundraising. I even need people who love gardening to help keep up with our flower gardens; we have people who love to plant flowers in memory of the babies they’ve lost, so the flower garden needs to be cared for throughout the spring, summer, and fall. We need people to help out with monthly mailings or go through baby clothes, or women who would be interested in mentoring young moms …” Summers says.
For more information on Pregnandcy Resource Clinic, visit the organization’s website at scprc.com.
Holly Riddle is a freelance writer. This story appears in the February 2021 issue of Town&Gown.