Pregnancy and childbirth are often cited as one of the happiest times in a mother's life.
Some women spend many years dreaming of the day they will conceive and give birth to a child.
But for some, this day may come at an unexpected or inconvenient time.
Along with varied emotions, unplanned pregnancy can bring a host of questions into a mother's life. The mother could be an unwed teen, a single professional or a married woman who feels she can't afford to have children.
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What these situations all have in common is a need for support during a stressful time.
GATE Pregnancy Resource Center of Harrisburg exists to serve girls and women of the community who find themselves faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
GATE was developed by Providence Baptist Church of Harrisburg Pastor John Cashwell and church member, Jan Durand Cranford, as an outreach to the community.
"I have always loved working with young girls, and as we discussed how we could reach out into the community, a pregnancy center was the perfect fit," said Cranford.
She began asking teen girls she knew where they would go for help if they were pregnant or if they needed other assistance or support. Cranford was amazed that not one girl knew where to turn for help.
Convinced of the need, Cranford and 15 other church members joined together to begin the planning process for GATE.
For the next year, the group researched the logistics of running a pregnancy center, visited maternity homes and attended training seminars. GATE Pregnancy Center opened in November 2006, at 112 Morris St., Suite 1 with Cranford as the director.
GATE is run by volunteers and in the early years, clients were few. Referrals come mostly by word of mouth from the clients themselves.
"We established a friendship with our very first client as we helped her navigate through an unplanned pregnancy," said Cranford. "We equipped her with emotional support, accurate information, training and some necessary supplies to begin parenting."
Soon after this client came to the center, she brought her sister and then her cousin. The girls and their babies still keep in touch with Cranford and the staff today.
The center now has a resource room containing new and gently used clothing, diapers, wipes, baby supplies and maternity clothes.
A client can attend classes or training seminars at the center and earn certificates to exchange for supplies from the resource room. Most of the supplies are donated.
Now with 25 volunteers, the pregnancy center offers free pregnancy tests, peer counseling, parenting classes and support groups where everyone is accepted and everything is confidential. All clients are treated with kindness and receive honest and open answers.
"We do not offer, recommend or refer for abortions, but we are committed to offering accurate information about abortion procedures and risk," adds Cranford.
During 2009, GATE assisted close to 100 girls.
Until now, the financial backing from the church was adequate to meet the operating budget for the center.
However, it is projected that GATE will assist nearly 300 girls in 2010 without any budget increase.
"We have never been in this position and have never had to do any formal fundraising," said Cranford. "We realize things are very different for the upcoming year, and it will be necessary to do as much fundraising as possible."
The center has one or two other church sponsors but will need additional help from churches and businesses in the area to successfully support future clients.