It’s not uncommon to see a handful of children playing on the large lawn next to Holy Cross Church in Ovid. The mothers of these children are part of the Stronger Together Moms group, which meets weekly at the church home and is supported by the Family Hope Center, a Geneva-based pregnancy center.
“Mothers come with their children for an hour or so and they just come and see us and their children play and we talk to them,” explained Doreen Teed, executive director of the pregnancy center.
The Family Hope Center, which provides alternatives to abortion for women and their families, began offering limited services in Ovid in 2019, using the space on the Holy Cross Church grounds as a field office of sorts. This arrangement arose from the desire of the center’s staff to better serve women and families in more rural parts of the region, Teed explained.
Ovid Space expands pregnancy center reach into southern Seneca County
“In Seneca County, where Ovid and Interlaken are … there aren’t many services, so I thought that would be a good place to open a center. I just started looking around and seeing if there would be a need for it. In the past, I’d looked at statistics and found that the live birth to pregnancy ratio was not good for that area,” she said.
After determining that the Family Hope Center’s services were needed in southern Seneca County, Teed worked to find a suitable location. She soon obtained permission to use rooms in the house on the campus of Holy Cross Church, which is part of the parish of Mary, Mother of Mercy. For several months, Family Hope Center staff and volunteers used the space to provide free pregnancy testing and parenting classes.
The center suspended these services in March 2020 when COVID-19 reached the region. When the center reopened a few months later, it briefly resumed offering pregnancy testing and parenting classes at its Ovid location before being forced to cut those services again due to staff and volunteer shortages, Teed said. However, in the summer of 2021, the center began offering its Stronger Together Moms group at the Ovid facility, as well as groups for teenage and teenage girls.
“They took off. We’d love to do parenting classes and pregnancy testing again at some point, but I don’t have enough staff at the moment, so at the moment we’re basically doing one moms’ group and two girls’ groups,” Teed said.
Groups for mothers, girls meet emotional needs and provide a sense of community
The Stronger Together groups in Ovid and Geneva are growing, she added.
“They say it just gives them a sense of support and community. They love just hanging out with other moms and they like letting their kids play,” she said. “It just seems to fill an emotional need and provide a sense of community.”
The Family Hope Center also provides free diapers to mothers who attend either the Stronger Together group in Ovid or its sister group in Geneva. And those who work with the center’s staff or volunteers to complete the online parenting or pregnancy courses offered at the Geneva facility can earn points that can be redeemed for material assistance like baby clothes, wet wipes or baby shampoo, Teed said.
“We go through a streaming platform that has developed courses for pregnancy centers. I think they have about 250 courses online right now, but these are pregnancy courses, parenting courses, fathering courses, bible studies. It’s a wide variety of classes,” she added.
The group helps girls avoid teenage pregnancy and navigate the sexed culture
The girls, who attend the bold beauty groups in both Ovid and Geneva, discuss a variety of topics at their weekly meetings, including self-worth and healthy relationships. Girls aged 9 to 13 meet every week for a discussion and a snack for one hour, while girls aged 14 and over meet for dinner for two hours every week.
The Geneva-based group Courageous Beauty was founded about six years ago after staff and volunteers at the Family Hope Center noticed an increase in the number of teenage girls coming to the center for pregnancy tests.
“We knew it was too late when we saw her. We wanted to make an impact earlier in the hope that they wouldn’t need those unscheduled pregnancy tests,” Teed said.
The Courageous Beauty groups have also proven useful for girls who aren’t necessarily at risk of pregnancy, especially as the culture has become increasingly sexually oriented, she added.
“This is a difficult culture for girls to navigate and we just want to give them a safe space to navigate it. You have to be able to navigate that culture with some older traditional values,” Teed said.