JOHNSBURG – Emma Libby was 20 years old, unsure whether her new job would last – and pregnant.
Considering keeping the baby and putting him up for adoption, she and her boyfriend at the time – now her fiance – turned to 1st Way Pregnancy Support Services, an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center in Johnsburg.
Through an earn-while-learning program, Libby was able to earn “mommy dollars,” brightly colored fake money that she could use to buy baby and toddler clothing, toys and a laundry basket full of about $200 worth of baby supplies.
“Having a little bit of the burden lifted off made me relax a little bit,” Libby said. “Everything ended up working out. ... If you ever had something else going on, they could tell you’re upset and they’ll say, ‘We can talk about this instead.’ ”
“They just want to make sure you’re happy and you’re at peace with yourself so you can focus on your baby and making sure they’re good and they’re healthy.”
Even though her son, Bryce, is approaching two years of age, Libby still is attending classes at the center. Her folder full of lessons had to be upgraded to a binder.
Libby is one of about 10,000 women 1st Way has helped since it started 35 years ago this Friday.
The number of women helped each year has grown, especially in the last couple years because of the economy, Director Connie Freund said.
“You have people coming in who have never had to ask for help,” she said, adding that women of all backgrounds come to the center – single and married, teenagers through women in their 40s.
In addition to prenatal and parenting classes, 1st Way also provides free pregnancy tests, diapers and wipes, a teen support group, mentoring, post-abortion support and information about adoption agencies and social service organizations.
As early as April of next year, the center also will provide ultrasounds, said promotions assistant Judy Cocks, who will be taking over as director on Jan. 1.
“The reality is if a women is pregnant, she needs to understand what that is in regards to the baby and herself. We try to give a person in that situation all the facts,” said Cocks, adding that if a women sees an ultrasound, she is less likely to have an abortion.
Cocks also is hoping to expand the center’s presence in the community and get back into high schools to provide a pro-abstinence education program.