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Counseling, education for Sumter women facing unplanned pregnancies

SUMTER—Volunteers are doing what they can to help women facing crisis pregnancy.

Members of St. Anne and St. Jude churches serve as regular volunteers at the Sumter Advocacy Center.
Founded in 2007 by executive director Pam Hudson, the center’s goal is to provide counseling, education, material and spiritual help to women dealing with unplanned pregnancy.

According to its Web site, www.sumteradvocacycenter.org, the organization provides information about adoption and other alternatives to abortion, and referrals for prenatal care and legal assistance. It also offers parenting classes for new mothers and parents struggling with the responsibilities of raising children.

Hudson and Kitty Kulungowski, a regular volunteer and member of St. Anne Church, said the center serves an average of 100 clients a month. A core group of 25 volunteers come from Catholic, Baptist and non-denominational churches around Sumter, including about 10 that work on a weekly basis. Kulungowski said the group has more than 45 combined years of experience in crisis pregnancy counseling.
 
The center mainly serves women from the city of Sumter and immediate surrounding areas, but also works with clients in nearby Clarendon County.

Hudson said they try to form a long-term relationship with the women because that is the best way to help them become an effective parent.

“We want to make a concrete change in their lives, and it takes time and love to do that,” she said. “We of course work with girls who are considering abortion, but we have seen a bigger need in our community with teenagers in crisis pregnancies needing someone to come alongside them to help them make decisions. We talk about adoption, but if they’re going to keep the child they need to learn how to parent the child in a positive way.”

Clients attend a 10-week parenting class, which covers topics such as how to bond with a baby, basic infant care, nutrition, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

“We teach things we take for granted, but a teenager or even a young adult often does not have those skills, and they may never have been taught those skills by their parents,” Hudson said.

At the end of the sessions, clients are given a baby shower where they receive diapers, baby clothes and other necessary items.

Follow-up classes for parents of older children focus on proper discipline, how to handle frustration and anger, and other issues. Some students are referred to the center by the Department of Social Services.

Students from St. Anne School and St. Francis Xavier High School in Sumter volunteer at the center and periodically hold diaper drives. Hudson said the local Knights of Columbus also regularly provide help and make monetary donations which helps buy supplies for the mothers.

Sally Osborne, a member of St. Anne Church, does one-on-one parenting counseling with clients and teaches a regular parenting class in the nearby town of Manning.

“I’ve gotten together with a group of faithful women from other denominations who have helped me to expand my Catholicism because there are things they want to know about my faith,” she said. “We share back and forth about our faith, and because of that it’s made it much easier for me to talk to any clients who come through our doors.”

Osborne said she can see how God is working through the center.

“Our clients are so appreciative of it all,” she said. “You can see the relief come over them when you tell them you can help them.”






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