Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre settles into new building and expands outreach to women and families

Volunteer Sylvia Elchuk making an Earn While You Learn Parent Education Appointment for Breanna, Breton and their son at the new reception area of the Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre. (Photo by Anne-Marie Hughes)

By Anne-Marie Hughes, Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre

The last four months have been a blur for the staff and volunteers of the Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre (SPOC).Pregnancy Options Centre (SPOC). Events have included a change in location, moving into a new set of “just finished” offices, along with a capital campaign to help pay for the new space, and tan annual gala fundraiser for some 400 people, that just happened to also be the 20th anniversary of the opening of services for crisis pregnancy support.

“We have gained so much knowledge about moving and outfitting a new building that we don’t plan on using again,’ says Executive Director Cathy LaFleche. “When you work with people in crisis there is also the challenge of trying to stay open and available for clients in need, while organizing tiny details and making moment-to-moment decisions. We were proud to say we actually only really shut down the office for a week, but still took crisis calls and texts over the phone.’

Moving to a completely new area of the city has meant giving out a whole new set of directions. The new address is 103 – 2543 Dudley Street, off 11th Street, close to Holiday Park. There is a bus stop a block away and clients that use transit are figuring out how to use the system most efficiently and teaching staff the ins and outs of bussing to this location.

The new building, Dudley Common, was the dream of Keystone Paving owner Colin Enns. His business was expanding and he decided to create a space for his operation with room for other businesses he knew and for SPOC. “Colin is a long-term supporter of the centre and attended the 2017 gala. When he heard the part of my speech about our search for more space he responded immediately after that night talking about his new building. It was really an answer to prayer,” says LaFleche.

The centre operates with a full time executive director, two part-time staff and 25 dedicated volunteers. Moving meant upgrading phones, computers and media systems. and training staff and volunteers to use the new technology. “Changing over technology could easily be a full-time job in itself,” explains Client Advocate Director Tracy Unger.

“Our parenting education curriculum moved from DVDs to a streaming system like Netflix around the time of the move. We use this for our one-on-one Earn While You Learn parenting support program where we do pregnancy information like Labour and delivery and after-birth parenting care and training. This system has great flexibility and we can even e-mail and text video modules to clients – but it has meant being patient with ourselves while becoming confident with its use.”

Moving has not all about serving more clients but also expanding what can be done for existing clients, Volunteer Elaine Schlosser explains.

“We have taken the opportunity of more space to ‘up our game a bit’ with our Mom’s Drop In. We are offering a parenting course every Wednesday afternoon for six weeks. Parents can still drop in, but for those who come for every class, they will get a certificate and ten ‘baby bucks” to spend in our new supply Baby Boutique. Clients are excited about it and have pre registered already. In our old space, moms were almost on top of each other. We couldn’t easily offer group classes.’’

The centre is now busier than ever.  “Many call thinking they can schedule an abortion at the centre. We always let them know we aren’t a medical office so we don’t arrange medical procedures. Often callers will still come in or talk on the phone to receive the information they need about the abortion process. We can spend over an hour with a client. Whatever time they need. We also have contacts with outside agencies and resource materials for both parenting and adoption that many physicians are not aware of. Women call referred by their doctors, as they needed the time and unstructured environment to talk about themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually if they wish.”

“We also get calls from medical clinics and other mental health agencies asking about post-abortion care. Often agencies are looking for help dealing with this specific issue, as it is different from other forms of depression and grief,” explains LaFleche.

Getting the message out of what services are offered at the centre is always a concern.

“We use all forms of media, from church bulletins to social media. To people who are interested in getting in touch LaFleche suggests: “You can get a good idea of who we are by following us on Facebook and many of our calls and texts are from Google searches. The most important thing to know, if it involves pregnancy in any way, [is to] contact us, however works for you. Give us a call. We can help somehow.”