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When Julie Walters interviewed for the job of executive director at the Pregnancy Care Center last year, she felt hesitant and a little unsure that she was in the right place, in terms of her purpose in life. After just two days on the job, however, Walters would encounter a situation that provided all the confirmation she needed to know that she was right where she was supposed to be.
A freelance interior designer and owner of the former Ambiance Interior Designs studio and retail store in Indian Land, Walters said she was told about the job by a friend. Walters herself said she was skeptical, but the friend pointed out that Walter’s abilities and the needs of Pregnancy Care Center were a perfect match.
“They told me the center needed someone to care about young moms, someone who would do all they could to push them not only to be good parents, but to make better choices and decisions that would change them for the better for the rest of their lives,” she said. “And that appealed to me, because I am a big advocate of education. I always say that education is knowledge, and knowledge is power. So I interviewed and got the job, but I still wasn’t necessarily convinced this was right for me. So I just said, ‘Lord, if this is what I’m supposed to do, I guess You’ll show me.’”
Walters said that she cares for the flowers put on the cafeteria tables at Springs Memorial Hospital, and second Tuesday of June last year was the day Walters would’ve ordinarily gone to handle that task. But Walters said she was tired, and knew that it could probably wait until the next day.
“So Wednesday after work, I sort of felt the same way, just tired and didn’t feel like going,” she said. “I was headed home, and fully intended to just go home and take care of it the next day, but I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to go over there, to the hospital. It was so strong that I had my steering wheel turned to the left, to go home, and it was really like I felt it being pulled back to the right, to go to the hospital. So I thought, ‘Ok, evidently I am supposed to go do this.’”
Walters said when she got to the hospital and was making the rounds in the cafeteria, watering the flowers on the tables, she noticed a young girl by herself at a table in the corner.
“She looked very upset,” Walters said. “She was on the phone and as I was coming by, I noticed that she had a list on the table in front of her. And when I went by, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop or anything, but I heard her asking the person on the other end of the phone, ‘Can you help me?’ I wondered what could’ve been wrong, because she just had this look on her face like her whole world had just collapsed.”
Walters said as she finished up with the flowers and got ready to leave, another strong feeling came over her to go back and ask the young woman if she was all right.
“I said to myself, ‘She’s going to think I’m crazy,’” Walters said. “I tried to leave twice, but that feeling was so strong I finally had to say, ‘Well, I guess she’ll just have to think I’m crazy.’”
Walters approached the girl, who was now crying, and asked if she was okay, and the girl replied, “No ma’am, I’m not.” When Walters sat down to talk to the girl and find out what was wrong, the young woman, Brittany Pridgen, told Walters she was about five months pregnant, with a mountain of obstacles in front of her and a feeling of being all alone in the world.
“I had no idea she was pregnant, because of the way she was sitting,” Walters said. “I would’ve never thought that was the problem. But what really gets me, even now to this day, is that I looked at her list of places she had been calling for help, and Pregnancy Care Center was next on her list. It gives me goose bumps, because if that isn’t confirmation that I am right where I am supposed to be, I don’t know what is.”
Pridgen, whose son, Tanner, is a happy, healthy four-month-old, said she did not know what would have become of her without Walters and the help offered by PCC.
“I had been on the phone that day with people from HOPE [in Lancaster] and Carolina Community Action because there was a lot that was wrong,” Pridgen said. “I was $1500 behind on my rent, I had been put on maternity leave at work by the doctor because of complications, and I didn’t really have a relationship with my family. I felt totally alone and lost in the world at that moment.”
The efforts put forth by PCC proved to Pridgen she was not alone and would not have to be, and she said that along with everything else, she had lost her faith in God before any of this happened.
“Everyone said I wouldn’t be able to handle this, that I wasn’t ready for a baby, but I honestly believe having this baby put me right where God wanted me to be,” she said. “The atmosphere at PCC is so wonderful and if you aren’t a believer in Christ when you walk through the door, you will be before you walk out. I haven’t had to pay for one thing for this baby, and it has been a blessing beyond words. I was able to get back to work, and I volunteer here and love spending time here whenever I can. This place is so important, and it is proof to me that God takes care of his children.”
PCC Marketing Director Sandra Edwards said Pridgen has been an ideal client, one who knows she has to take responsibility for her life and takes the proper steps to do that.
“Brittany is a great example of how it should go,” Edwards said. “She said ‘yes’ to the help we offered and does all that she can to better herself in every way, not just where the baby is concerned. She is one of many success stories that come out of PCC, and we want the community to be very aware of the good that is done here.”
Walters said running the day-to-day operations of PCC is very dependent on outside support from the community, and since she came on board in June of last year, 227 new clients have passed through the door.
“Anybody will tell you, I’m tight when it comes to money,” she said. “We operate on a shoestring budget and staff and we need as much financial support from the community that we can get, and that’s just the bottom line. We still have monthly bills to pay, like the light bill and water bill, and while we do rely on volunteers, there are some paid positions here that still have to be paid. We are so grateful for the donations we receive from the community, but I want to make sure that people understand our need for support to continue to do what we do for these girls.”
Walters said out of all the churches in the Lancaster area, 13 make consistent monthly donations to PCC. That money, she said, is all the budget PCC has when it comes to paying the bills.
“We would just ask if there are any more churches out there willing to commit to this cause on a monthly basis, or consider adding us as a line item in their budget,” Walters said. “The work we do here is very important and I want it not just to continue, but improve in any way it possibly can.”
Walters added that PCC recently opened a location inside KARE in Kershaw and is an effort to make the services available to as many people as possible. The office is currently located in the former KARE Thrift store while they wait for a bigger space to become available in the new KARE facility.
“We won’t stop reaching out to the community and putting our name out there to anyone who needs our services,” Walters said. “We have youth groups come and take tours of our office in Lancaster so we can let them know exactly what we do and we welcome anyone with any questions to come and see us here.”
The Lancaster Pregnancy Care Center was founded in 1999 and offers many services to expectant mothers.
They offer 42 different classes that cover pregnancy and parenting and have a program called “Earn While You Learn”, which is for mothers or expecting mothers.
The program is a National Pregnancy Care program supported by CareNet and gives the mother an opportunity to earn “Mommy Money” credits for used the center’s Clothes Closet Boutique. The mothers take educational classes on parenting and pregnancy, and the credits can be used for items such as diapers, baby wipes, maternity clothes.
The center also gladly accepts donations of gently used maternity clothes and diapers in sizes 2, 3 and 4.
“There is so much more that we try to do here than just help pregnant women,” Walters said. “We are trying to put them on a better path that will last them for a lifetime.”
For information, or to find out how to make a donation, contact Pregnancy Care Center at (803) 286-5900 or e-mail the center at firstname.lastname@example.org.