In March 2020, Barbara Gosa and the volunteers at the Citrus Pregnancy Center were excitedly putting the finishing touches on their new location at 3185 E. Thomas St. in Inverness.
Then COVID-19 disrupted their plans for a grand opening and open house, also for their major fundraising events both in 2020 and into 2021.
However, the nonprofit faith-based ministry to women with unplanned pregnancies and their families kept its doors open and even started new programs aimed at strengthening young families in the community.
Recently, the Chronicle took a tour of the new facility, which includes a large, comfortable multi-use area, three private counseling rooms, a sonogram room and a baby boutique filled with everything a new baby needs to start out in life.
“The remodel and updates have created a warm and welcoming environment for the women — and men — who need our services,” Gosa, Citrus Pregnancy Center executive director, said.
Citrus Pregnancy Center, with another location in Crystal River, started in 1999 by a group of pastors as a crisis pregnancy center.
The center offers free lab-quality pregnancy tests, sonograms, counseling and parenting classes.
Last year they added a fatherhood class, with about a dozen men completing the program so far.
“It’s a men’s group; they meet after hours, have a meal and talk,” Gosa said. “We have mentors, Christian men from the community to help them step into their role as providers for their family.”
A local church raised more than $1,000 through a baby bottle fundraiser, earmarked to start the new fatherhood program.
“Another thing that happened, we got a grant from the Citrus County Community Charitable Foundation, and we designed a program so that the clients who enroll and complete at least 10 lessons of parenting classes qualify to receive everything from a car seat, stroller — everything they need, and in some cases, even a crib,” Gosa said.
She said one couple signed up for classes with the mom taking one program and the dad taking the fatherhood program. They were expecting twins, so they each earned a whole package for their babies.
Similarly, items in the baby boutique can be “purchased” through points earned for completing certain things.
“Instead of giving things away, we want them to get the satisfaction of, ‘I earned this,’ and, ‘I can do this,’” she said.
She said many of their clients struggle financially, and the pandemic took a toll on young families.
"Ten points might not sound like much, but that will 'buy' five brand-new baby outfits," Gosa said.
Also on their upcoming programs list: Nature Coast Ministries will be doing “dental hygiene while pregnant” and “dental hygiene for newborns” classes for clients and people in the community who are interested.
And despite the pandemic and a new location that didn’t have a fanfare opening event and having to do their fundraising events virtually and socially distanced, they had a successful year.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of women we see who are at risk for choosing abortion,” Gosa wrote in their June 2021 newsletter. “Their stories are complicated and at times heartbreaking.
“For those that allow us to follow up with them, most choose life after getting all the information they need and seeing their baby at our office during their sonogram appointment. We are blessed with nurses trained in this special life-saving sonography and thank God for them daily,” she wrote.
For more information about the Citrus Pregnancy Center, visit their website at www.citruspregnancy.org.