NIAGARA FALLS – For Destiny Tamborello, coming to the Summit Life Outreach Center has helped alleviate some of her worries about being a single mom and made her more comfortable with the role.
For about a year and a half, the Niagara Falls woman has received guidance about being a mother from workers and volunteers at the Pine Avenue nonprofit.
“When I came here, it made me feel better,” said Tamborello, now 23, who has a 2-year-old daughter, Kylie Clark.
The mission of the Summit Life Outreach Center, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, is to help those with unexpected or unplanned pregnancies by offering alternatives to abortion.
It can be a scary time when a woman gets pregnant and it wasn’t planned, said Executive Director Barbara J. Bidak. She described the walk-in center as “a place to go to talk before they make that decision” about whether to have an abortion. She emphasized that the final decision lies with the potential mother-to-be.
The center, at 1622 Pine Ave., offers free pregnancy testing, peer counseling and parenting education. It also has a program that allows participants to take home baby clothes and other items.
To mark its anniversary, the organization will host an open house from noon to 4 p.m. next Sunday.
The organization was founded in 2005, an idea of James I. Anthony Jr., then-owner of Summit Park Mall. It was a response, in part, to the Planned Parenthood office on Williams Road near the mall, said Stephen J. Bradley, the organization’s treasurer.
The center was initially located in the former mall in Wheatfield and opened on Pine Avenue in 2009. It offers a number of free programs, including counseling provided by peer counselors, who are unlicensed.
Officials at the center emphasize that they are not running a medical facility and that they do not give out medical advice. But the center does provide about 75 pregnancy tests a year, they said.
The center’s Earn While You Learn program gives parents or parents-to-be the chance to obtain items such as baby clothes, diapers and other supplies by attending 45-minute education sessions.
Each session earns the client 15 credits, which they can redeem in a bright room in the back of the center known as the Parenting Shop.
The center is lined with racks of clothes and other baby items, and it offers various teaching modules that include videos and worksheets.
Eligibility for the program for women is from when they become pregnant until their child is 2 years old.
At present, the center has 76 women and seven men participating in the Earn While You Learn program. Most of the facility’s clients are from Niagara Falls, officials said.
The center also offers what it calls the Forgiven and Set Free program for women who have had abortions. Some women regret their decision and are looking for emotional healing, Bidak said.
“We want to be here for them, too,” she said.
Clients of the center also receive referrals to other agencies, including Niagara County Social Services, and for prenatal care at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
Clients can also get help with housing.
The organization also works with Baker Victory Services in cases where parents want to offer a child for adoption.
It also participates in a national 24-hour hotline, 800-712-HELP.
Last year, the center had 1,035 visits, an increase over previous years, Bidak said.
To keep the operations going, the organization’s biggest need is financial support because it relies solely on donations, said board President Michele G. Altman.
In addition to its executive director, the center in the last two years has added a second staff member – a client services coordinator.
While the center serves primarily women, there are some men who participate in its programs. The center recently had a father who took enough parenting classes to earn credits for a new crib for his family.
Tamborello, the Falls mother who has been coming to the center with her daughter, said that one of the most important elements of what she has taken away from the center is the ability to incorporate what she has learned into her everyday life.
“I want everyone to know that there are people there for you,” Tamborella said.
Their office is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Walk-ins are welcome.
For information about the organization, which is seeking volunteers, visit summitlifecenter.org or call 298-8600.