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The Chronicle’s ongoing series, Nonprofit Spotlight, profiles the nonprofit agencies in Citrus County that exist to help make life better for us all.

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In 1998, a handful of local pastors got together and talked about starting a crisis pregnancy center.

They knew that only God could do it, and they were willing to step out on faith that it would happen.

The ministry to women and families dealing with an unplanned pregnancy opened in 1999 as Life Choice Care Center. Today it’s called Citrus Pregnancy Center with two locations, Inverness and Crystal River.

In 2021, the center served 488 clients, women and men, who received their services, with a total of 1,337 appointments, their highest number of appointments to date.

What does Citrus Pregnancy Center do? What is the mission/purpose as an agency?

Citrus Pregnancy Center exists to help women and their partners who are facing unplanned pregnancies to choose life for their babies and then equipping the parents-to-be with the things they need to give their baby and themselves a good foundation.

What services do you offer?

All services offered by Citrus Pregnancy Center are free to the clients and include: lab-quality pregnancy tests, sonograms, evidence-based information about abortion so a woman considering abortion can make an educated and informed decision, parenting training, fatherhood classes, adoption education, and for those who have had abortions and are struggling with the emotional after-effects, even years later, the center offers post-abortion counseling.

The center also has a Baby Boutique that’s filled with baby clothes, diapers, baby wipes, vitamins, formula, car seats, strollers – everything a newborn needs, thanks primarily to a grant from the Citrus County Community Charitable Foundation and sometimes donations from community groups and churches that have baby showers to keep the boutique stocked with brand new items.

Clients who enroll and complete at least 10 lessons of parenting classes earn points, which they can use to “shop” in the boutique for everything they need, in some cases, even a crib.

“Instead of giving things away, we want them to get the satisfaction of, ‘I earned this,’ and, ‘I can do this,’” said Barb Gosa, Citrus Pregnancy Center executive director.

She said many of their clients struggle financially, and most recently the pandemic has taken a toll on young families.

“Ten points might not sound like much, but that will ‘buy’ five brand-new baby outfits,” Gosa told the Chronicle in 2021.

What is the annual budget and how is it funded?

The budget for 2022 is about $300,000. The center receives no government funding of any kind and is supported by donations from individuals and churches.

They also have three main fundraisers: a banquet in the fall, a walk in the spring and “baby bottle” campaigns that local churches do throughout the year where empty baby bottles are given out to be returned filled with coins, cash or checks.

How many volunteers does Citrus Pregnancy Center have? Are more needed, and if so, how can people volunteer?

Currently the center has about 20 volunteers, ranging from answering the phone to counseling with clients. Gosa said they always need volunteers and will provide training. Their most pressing need is for registered nurses to give sonograms.

What keeps you motivated?

“When women come in, they’re often frightened and unsure; many don’t know what they’re going to do,” Gosa said. “But then when they leave and are almost physically transformed with a smile on their face and they’re calmer and ready to review all the information they’ve received, that’s what motivates us.”

What difference do you want to make in Citrus County?

“We would love to see Citrus County know that when women get pregnant, that they have the support and resources they need to continue their pregnancy,” Gosa said. “When they’re in our parenting program and they come into the baby boutique to shop with the points they’ve earned, we make sure they know that everything in that room has been donated by people they’ll never meet who care about what they’re going through and want them to have nice things.

“The looks on their faces are amazing.” she said.

How can the community help you help others?

Gosa said the biggest help would be to tell others the center exists to offer help and resources, adding that most of their clients find them by word of mouth or an internet search and that after more than 20 years, people still don’t know about the center.

Upcoming events:

Citrus Pregnancy Center’ “Walk in Love” fundraising walk is set for Saturday, May 14 beginning at the Depot pavilion in Inverness.

Check-in time is 8 a.m. and the walk starts at 9.

Register online at www.cpcwalk.com.

INFO:

Citrus Pregnancy Center is at 3185 E. Thomas St., Inverness. Phone: 352-341-5176.

The Crystal River center is at 726 NE U.S. 19, Crystal River. Phone: 352-228-4909.

Email: [email protected] pregnancy.org

Website: CitrusPregnancy.org.

Facebook: www.facebook. com/CitrusPregnancy Center