Residents in need of pregnancy resources have another option to turn to — one that has over three decades of experience serving Collin County.
Allen-based nonprofit Real Options is partnering with The Cross Church in Wylie to provide pregnancy resources to residents of the city and the surrounding area. The mobile unit, affectionately named “Zoe,” began sitting in The Cross Church’s parking lot Sept. 26.
Each week, the mobile unit arrives and is set up by 10 a.m. and it remains open until around 2:30 p.m. The only exception is if the unit is serving clients which may mean it stays longer, said Jennifer Shelton, chief executive officer of Real Options.
In Wylie, the mobile unit will show up each Thursday during the allotted time.
The nonprofit began serving residents of Collin County 36 years ago, she said, adding that it was the first pregnancy resource center in the county. Its permanent location is at 1776 W. McDermott Drive, Suite 100, in Allen.
Shelton said Real Option’s mobile unit is a way to make services more accessible to communities that may lack coverage or are in need of a pregnancy resource center.
“We wanted to be able to take our services to the community,” Shelton said. “To have it in their community makes it a lot easier and safer for them.”
In addition to Wylie, Real Options sends a mobile unit to the southern portion of Dallas, Allen and will be adding a Princeton stop beginning Oct. 26. The decision to expand to Wylie also opened the door to partner with Hope Bridge Pregnancy Resource Center, which does not offer some of the medical services Real Options is able to provide.
“We’re able to fill in that gap and they are able to provide mentorship and training classes,” Shelton said. “It is important for us to link arms because we are trying to accomplish the same thing.”
Real Options has also worked with The Cross Church for several years, she said, adding that the mobile unit is just another part of that relationship. There is also no finite time commitment from the nonprofit for how long it will continue to offer the mobile unit in the church’s parking lot.
“We have had a long-term partnership with The Cross Church. They have opened the doors to help the community and we want to be a part of that as well,” Shelton said. “We’re going to continue this as long as is needed.”
Whenever the mobile unit shows up, it always has an advocate on board, who helps an individual navigate their different options and either a registered nurse or registered diagnostic medical sonographer, said Shelton. All services at both the Allen Clinic and mobile unit are available for free and are confidential.
Individuals are able to walk up to the mobile unit to receive services. For the clinic, online appointments are available for a pregnancy test, abortion information or Medicaid confirmation.
Appointments for a sonogram or a sexually transmitted infection test must be made by calling 972-440-0167.
Real Options is also committed to providing its services to anyone that comes through its doors, regardless of need or income level.
“It’s not just low-income people who don’t have transportation,” Shelton said. “We want to be available and accessible to anyone.”
Additionally, the nonprofit opened an office in Melissa to help connect to residents in that area of Collin County. Real Options also works with around 150 referral agencies that help provide job skills training and education, legal services and nutritional assistance, such as prenatal vitamins that are essential for pregnant women.
Shelton said that the nonprofit provided $116,000 worth of gifts in several baby showers it hosted for women in its programs last year. A big component of Real Options’ mission is to assist future mothers and fathers by providing them with tools they need to be successful, if they decide they will keep their baby.
“We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re alone and have to do this by themselves,” Shelton said. “We come alongside that couple to let them know that there are people out there who care for them.”
For other couples, there may be a financial or childcare need, which Real Options tries to fulfill using partner programs.
While women have to carry a child inside them, Real Options makes it a point to connect with future fathers by enlisting the aid of male volunteer advocates while their partners can also connect with a female advocate. The nonprofit then walks through the three options: abortion, adoption and pregnancy with each couple or mother.
For mothers, Shelton said the goal is to make sure they have the information they need to consider the option that suits their current life needs.
“We help them to look at those three and see what is most important that way, they can evaluate them in a safe environment,” Shelton said. “We want her to know that she is not pigeon-holed into one decision.”
If a woman decides that she is going to carry a baby to term, Shelton said that Real Options will help arrange for a sexually transmitted infection screening because of potential pregnancy complications if one is present. The nonprofit’s medical staff will also provide an ultrasound to help identify how far into a pregnancy a woman might be.
In the event a woman decides that an abortion is the right choice for her, Real Options also has partners that specialize in abortion recovery.
For teens and local high school students, Real Options contracts with three professional speakers that talk about abstinence and the risks of pre-marital sex. Shelton said over 50% of students are sexually active by the time they graduate high school and the nonprofit is hoping to reduce that number.
She added that part of why students make choices to become sexually active is the culture and media they are exposed to. In the over 50 schools and churches Real Options sends speakers to, the goal is to help them realize that there are other choices — such as abstinence — and that they do not have to become sexually active to fit in.
“The whole goal is for them to see the risk of premarital sex,” Shelton said. “Our goal is for them to see how important they are and make choices counter to the culture.”
She said she has even had students address her after speaking amazed that abstinence and power over their choices is achievable.
“It is a great way for them to gain self-confidence and learn that they have other choices,” Shelton said.
At the end of the day, Real Options is not focused on the legal issues of abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The focus Shelton said is on improving the overall standard of care for women who either are concerned they may be pregnant or are already pregnant.
For more information about Real Options or to book an appointment online, visit realoptionstx.com.
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