Many women and men face an unplanned pregnancy with no support system, no encouragement and no resources to make healthy choices for their future. At the Alpha Center, our mission is to clear confusion with the message of hope. We empower women and men to choose life for their unborn babies while equipping them to step into the role of being strong, responsible and loving parents.
I began working at the Alpha Center in 2014, but my mom has been volunteering here since 1998. She stayed at home raising and homeschooling five kids, but she wanted to volunteer somehow, so she started taking hotline calls at night and over the weekends when the center was closed. When I graduated from college and was looking for a job in Sioux Falls, my mom encouraged me to apply for a job at the Alpha Center. My background in social work led me to apply, and when I came in for an interview I realized right away that this organization was perfect for me.
They first hired me to oversee the client program and I loved meeting with clients. I know that when I am in some sort of crisis or stressful situation, I want someone knowledgeable to help me, and I love being that person for someone here. When clients come in anxious about an unplanned pregnancy, we are able to sit with them, let them share their story and then give them the clarity they need to move forward and make positive choices for their life. More than just giving them direction, we want to give them a chance to talk about the emotional side effects of relationships and empower them to desire the best for themselves.
After two years, Alpha Center hired another supervisor to take over the client side of the organization, and I became Executive Director. Today, I talk with staff and volunteers about client situations, work with Human Resources and management to implement policies, coordinate projects and events and meet with other organizations and churches to talk with people about what we provide for our community.
The Alpha Center is a family organization. Not only do we help clients become good parents and build positive relationships with their significant others, we as a staff are a family, and it’s important to me that we take care of one another. We want to ensure that all our staff and volunteers are well taken care of, feel appreciated and are happy to be here. Because we are working in a sensitive environment, we support one another well and take time to debrief on a daily basis. We all know that we are instruments of God, so we continue to raise one another up as we honor this great work we’ve been given.
The Alpha Center began in 1984 in the basement of Dr. Allen and Leslee Unruh’s home. Dr. Unruh had placed an ad in the yellow pages about abortion information, and people started calling his clinic wanting to talk. He eventually was not able to take all of the calls, so he started sending them to his house, where his wife, Leslee, would answer the phone while at home with their five kids. Unbeknownst to Allen at the time, Leslee was post-abortive herself. She told Allen she did not want to answer calls anymore. But through conversation and prayer, the two of them realized that this is what they were called to do.
Leslee continued to invite women into her home offering them free pregnancy tests, support and perspective during a difficult time. Today, as Founders of the Alpha Center, Leslee and Dr. Unruh continue to raise money and speak around the country to promote our mission. Leslee also works closely with Abstinence Clearinghouse, an international sister organization of the Alpha Center that educates parents, teachers and other pregnancy center staff on how to talk with teens and young adults about positive choices, healthy relationships and the appreciation for purity until marriage.
The Alpha Center is a pregnancy resource center that provides a full range of services to women and men involved in an unplanned pregnancy. Our goal is to provide positive alternatives with practical support for those in our community who feel they have nowhere else to turn.
Our free services include pregnancy tests and private consultations, ultrasound exams, mentoring for both mothers and fathers, parenting classes, weekly life skills classes and post-abortion support.
We also offer an education-based program called Earn While You Learn, in which clients watch videos applicable to their stage of pregnancy through their child’s first two years and then earn incentive points that can be redeemed for baby items like diapers, car seats, clothing, bottles, etc. It’s important to us that we teach clients new skills and empower them to apply those skills to their life as opposed to just giving things away. We want them to learn how to be good parents and make positive changes in their life.
Another program we provide is called WINGS, a sexual integrity program designed to help women establish healthy, life-long relationships. STD testing is also available at the Alpha Center for a minimal lab processing fee. Everything else is free of charge and completely donor funded.
At the Alpha Center, we are here to help people through the initial panic of an unplanned pregnancy, but we also hope that our relationship with a client will transition from just needs-based material assistance to fostering changes for a better life and a desire for a relationship with Christ. Those conversations do not always come easily, but if we want to see a change in a client’s life, we have to face the difficult stuff, too, and be here for people when they are ready.
When I was Client Services Supervisor, I met with a client who knew she was pregnant but wanted to take a test to confirm her pregnancy. She was engaged, but she knew her fiancé wasn’t interested in having children, so she was afraid he would want her to abort the baby. We offered her an ultrasound and confirmed viability of her pregnancy. She went home and told her fiancé about the baby, and they decided they were going to continue the pregnancy.
After her daughter was born, she continued coming in to the Alpha Center for our Earn While You Learn program. She came in so frequently that we ran out of videos for her to watch! So we started her on Focus on the Family’s Family Project DVDs, in which one of the lessons discussed the importance of Mom and Dad being married. She and her partner were still engaged but had delayed the wedding after their daughter was born. After watching the videos however, she was convicted and they decided to go to the courthouse to get married. Today, they have a second baby girl, and she still comes into the center sometimes to visit and say hello. Every time I see her, I am reminded that it doesn’t matter how hard this work can be, women like her are why we need to be here.