Pregnancy center has new director
By Nick Longworth
A pastor at Faithbridge church for over two decades, Mark Waller, is now beginning a journey with a new role, in a new profession.
Now serving as the interim executive director for The Pregnancy Resource Center in Park Rapids, Waller is looking to branch out into other areas of the community.
“I resigned from (being a pastor) and am exploring different possibilities. I was ready to see what the Lord might have next for me in other areas of ministry. I am exploring those possibilities now, and this is one of them. It might end up being more longterm, but at this point we are looking at it more as an interim position,” Waller said.
The Pregnancy Resource Center is a faith-based Ministry that has been available in Park Rapids in some capacity since 1996. Located at 200 Sixth St. W., the center’s missions is to support men and women in the event of an unplanned pregnancy occurring. Along with education and emotional support, the group is also able to offer tangible services such as physical supplies and referrals.
“We’re here to give (potential parents) information on pregnancy, and everything that comes with it. We have material assistance programs that allow parents to come in every three to four months, depending on how fast the kid grows, and get clothing and baby supplies,” said Heiki Gross, former executive director and current assistant executive director.
Waller is filling the role that she left vacant for family reasons.
“We are a safe place where you can come and really be open about what you have going on. At any stage in life when you become pregnant, you will get advice from everybody; we want to be that place where they can sort through that,” Gross said.
“We offer ‘life classes’ which parents can start in their first trimester of pregnancy and continue until the child is a year of age. We have other education curriculums too; they can learn how to be a good housekeeper, how to manage their grocery shopping and other opportunities. We offer a faith-based curriculum, but they don’t have to do that either; it’s their decision” said Michele Werder, Client Services Coordinator.
“We also offer an abstinence program to the schools. We have a trained speaker who travels around to the schools to promote healthy relationships,” Waller said.
All of the offerings are free of charge for those who come in needing the help. This leaves the pregnancy center relying solely on state grants and outside donations to be able to help those who walk through their doors.
“We are partially funded by state grants and we’re partly funded by donations. We have a two-year grant, the positive alternatives grant through the Minnesota Department of Health that we are working with right now. It ends in June and we are looking to renew it as well. We have a combination of funding through churches who donate, individuals who donate and state grants that allow us to do this,” Waller said.
“We work with and will support anyone. We are affiliated with Care Net, which is a national organization of pregnancy centers. We are always looking for any donations of diapers, clothing, or any other baby equipment,” Gross said.
Around all of the services offered remains a pillar of support that the Park Rapids Pregnancy Resource Center wants to offer first and foremost.
“We want to stand alongside those involved in a pregnancy to encourage and support them through the whole process of giving birth. We want to train them to be great parents as they work through the challenge of raising children. A lot of times it is overwhelming when they find themselves in the situation. We want to be that support team to go through all the different decisions they will have to make,” Waller said.
Part of Waller’s goal in his new position is to raise awareness in the community about The Pregnancy Resource Center’s offerings. He wants to have everyone be as involved as possible.
“My primary role here is to connect with some of the pastors and churches and let them know what we are doing here, who we are helping and how we can work together in serving the people in need. I am going to be interacting a lot with the community in general to help people know more about the center. It presents an opportunity to help some of the fathers who come in get involved as well,” Waller said.
“We want to expand those we help. We want to get the potential fathers more involved as well. As we add more clients, we hope to be able to train more counselors to help them through this. I think there are needs out there that aren’t being met. Some people try and ‘tough it out’, but I think if they knew that there was a place that they could come and find some encouragement and help to deal with some of the issues they are facing it would be a lot easier,” Waller said.
The Pregnancy Resource Center can be reached at 732-5212.