In the Lakeland community, the first pregnancy resource center was Preg-Aid, started by Pat Buckler in 1979 with $40 and the support of her church. Her dream was to have a place where women facing crisis pregnancies could come to receive food, clothing, and spiritual guidance. Pat died suddenly in 1995. Her daughters continued to operate until 1997 when they decided to close Preg-Aid.
In October of 1997, a group of pro-life men and women gathered together. Their goal was to open a new crisis pregnancy center. Dr. Ellie Hartog, a retired obstetrician/gynecologist, generously purchased a small house, which was remodeled by Ron Henkelman Construction to accommodate our needs. So in October 1998, Pregnancy Help Center of Lakeland opened to continue the work of Preg-Aid. In 2002, Mary Rutherford officially became the Executive Director.
In September 2003, the Board of Directors voted to become a Medical Clinic offering ultrasounds as the “window to the womb”. In January of 2004, we learned that Focus on the Family was offering grants of $18,000 for ultrasound machines. We qualified for the grant and received our machine in April. We officially opened as a Medical Clinic in May 2004. Dr. Richard Rutherford served as our first Medical Director. Then in 2005, Dr. Jeffrey Puretz assumed this volunteer position and Mary Drewry was hired as the first Nurse Manager.
In 2006, we realized we were still primarily seeing women who wanted to have their babies vs. women at risk for abortion. We heard about a PRC in Rochester NY that had developed a way of reaching and serving the abortion-minded woman. In 2007 we implemented this linear service model, called the Optimization Tool (OT), and it has maximized our effectiveness in reaching abortion-minded women and impacting their decisions in favor of life.
Our story continued with the purchase of our new building in November 2010. This allowed us to expand our services and reach more women. In a continued effort to reach more women specifically at risk for abortion, we also changed our name to Options for Women Pregnancy Help Clinic.
In March of 2013, we received a new ultrasound machine through the fundraising efforts of Don Schluender and matching funds by the Knights of Columbus. The new machine features doppler, which allows women to both see and hear their child’s heartbeat.
Dream Center Clinic
In February of 2015, we opened a second location at the Dream Center of Lakeland. In partnership with the Dream Center, we began offering our services one day a week to serve one of the most impoverished areas of Lakeland.
In January 2018, we expanded again to a new clinic in Bartow. Operating out of the Church Service Center, we provide our free services three days a week. This allows us to serve patients on the eastern side of the county, opening the doors to saving even more lives.
In November 2019, we are opened our fourth location! 4504 South Florida Avenue in Lakeland. This location is strategically placed on South Florida Avenue where 41,000 cars drive each day. In addition, we are located right next-door to the last abortion clinic in Polk County. We are excited to be bringing life, light, hope, truth and Jesus to the dark corner of South Florida Avenue.
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