By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
If there’s one word that best describes Linda Smith, it’s “grateful.” And Smith, executive director for Women’s Resource Center of Escambia in Atmore, has plenty for which to be grateful these days.
For starters, the local family planning center was the recipient last week of the first grant awarded by the recently formed Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
“This will help us to continue our services to our community,” the center director said upon receiving a $1,000 check from Emilee Waters, president of the local Chamber’s board. “It will help make an impact on the lives of families here in our community.”
Waters said the foundation’s board felt the center was a good choice for recipient of the new fund’s first grant.
“They were trying to recover from COVID, and their resources were slim,” the Chamber board president said. “They reached out for some help and we were able to help them. We’re excited about doing more with our foundation.”
Waters said the initial funding for the foundation came from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (stimulus money) that was sent to the Chamber so it could help struggling businesses.
Smith noted that the center, a faith-based ministry that is in its 31st year of offering free pregnancy preparation and parenting services to teen girls and women of all ages, depends primarily on donations from several churches and individuals to keep its doors open and see to the needs of its clients.
“I’m grateful that we’ve been operating for 31 years,” she said. “God has always provided for us, and we’ve been able to add services. We offer our services to anybody who comes to our door. We like to say that we cover from the womb to the tomb.”
The center’s main service are pregnancy testing and ultrasound monitoring, but a new initiative that was enacted just over a year ago has now gone digital and has become Women’s Resource Center of Escambia’s fastest growing and most far-reaching programs.
We now do a parenting education program,” Smith pointed out. “It’s one of those things we started in January (2020), before the shutdowns started. We took a leap of faith and used our funds to start a program where our clients could take the parenting classes by text or email, instead of having to come down to the center, and it has just exploded.”
Center officials, employees and volunteers hope to return soon to local schools, where they had been teaching youngsters about the most effective way of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.
“We unapologetically teach abstinence; it’s the only way you’ll guarantee you won’t get pregnant,” Smith said. “We’ve been going into the school for several years, teaching abstinence education, helping the kids make choices.”
There is evidence the effort has paid off.
“There has actually been a decline from the year we started in the schools (2005),” the center director said. “According to Alabama Department of Public Health statistics, there has been a gradual decline in sexually transmitted diseases. I’m grateful we could be a part in that.”
Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation to the center may do so by mailing a check to the center at 204 South Pensacola Avenue, Atmore, AL 36504, or bringing it by the center, which is located just across from the Frontier building.
Waters reiterated that the entire community has benefited from the services offered by Women’s Resource Center.
“We greatly appreciate what y’all are doing,” she told Smith and her staff. “It’s amazing, the things y’all do, and the grant brought what y’all do into focus. We are very glad to have y’all in Atmore as a resource for young and old.”
The center is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day.