"The goal of Life Choices can be summarized in two words," Life Choices Executive Director Reni Bumpas told the audience. "Educate and empower."
Attendees heard from keynote speaker The Rev. John Ensor, author of several books including "Answering the Call" and "Innocent Blood". Ensor serves as the executive director of Urban Initiatives for Heartbeat International and has planted crisis pregnancy centers across the country and worldwide.
Ensor discussed how crisis pregnancy centers had evolved from just 12 centers nearly 40 years ago when the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, upholding a woman's constitutional right to choose and legalizing abortion nationwide. According to Ensor, today there are over 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers.
The evening marked new beginnings for Life Choices, which went from its traditional format of inviting the entire community to the banquet to inviting partners that were vested in the organization's ministry. This allowed for a more focused evening where the leaders of the organization updated its Partners for Lives on where the organization stood and where it was heading. Partners for Lives include board members, volunteers, individuals who have pledged monthly donations or who have given $200 annually or who have raised $200 in the annual Walk for Lives.
"Our desire was to gather our Partners for Lives, the people who are committed to investing in the work of Life Choices," said Bumpas. "These are the people that have captured the vision of Life Choices and we wanted to give them an opportunity to invite others to join them as Partners for Lives."
Bumpas traced the organization's history for the audience from 1999 to the present and included an engaging skit where she answered God's call on stage. She recounted how she was driving down Lake Road several weeks after the Rev. Peter Marshall had visited the community in 1999 to discuss revivals and what it would look like.
"God does not call the equipped," Bumpas told the State Gazette in a separate interview. "He equips those he calls."
Bumpas recalled how Buck Tarpley shortly afterward put an ad in the State Gazette inviting everyone interested in starting a crisis pregnancy center to meet. At the meeting, she found that she was not alone and that everyone there had a passion for women in crisis as well as a passion for the sanctity of human life.
Today, Life Choices is focused on its medical mission and empowering women with options. Kim Hampton, the organization's medical clinic coordinator, presented the audience with sobering statistics and the organization's many challenges. Hampton reported that one of the most discouraging things is that when comparing the abortion rate in 2010 in Dyer County to the number of abortion-risk women Life Choices saw that year, at most only 20 percent that could have benefited from the organization's services prior to terminating their pregnancies actually came. She said this caused the organization to evaluate and refocus on how it could do better.
Hampton says that they determined that half the organization's energy and resources were being spent on women that intend to carry. While she stresses that they want to extend hope to those women and their families they do not want to lose site of their target, which is women that are at-risk for having abortions.
"We are not about pro-life or pro-choice," said Hampton. "We are pro-client. We want to give women all the information possible so that she can make the best decision for herself and her unborn child."
To reach as many people as possible, Life Choices has increased its marketing budget in order to be able to place ads in high-traffic areas where at-risk women are likely to see them such as the local movie theater. The organization has also changed its clinic hours to offer services later in the day. The clinic is open four days a week and is closed on Wednesdays. The current hours of operation are:
* Monday 3 to 7 p.m.
* Tuesday 2 to 5 p.m.
* Thursday 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m.
* Friday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In addition, Life Choices continues its effort to become an established medical clinic. The organization has taken steps to become accredited through The Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). Accreditation through AAAHC will measure the quality of Life Choices' services and performance against nationally recognized standards. Hampton says Life Choices already abides by HIPAA, although it is not legally required to, but does so because they believe in the privacy of their clients.
"We pray that our clinic will be used to preserve life but we will be open, honest and non-judgmental with all the women that come through our door," said Hampton. "We will share God's love and grace unconditionally and he will work it out for his purposes."
Bumpas told the State Gazette on Friday morning that the financial goal for the evening was one-time gifts of $35,000, which was an increase from last year. The organization also set a goal of increasing monthly contributions by $2,000. The preliminary totals for one-time gifts thus far were $22,000 with an increase in monthly contributions by $300 over last year.
Bumpas says that there is still an opportunity to pledge by visiting the organization's website at www.lifechoicesdyersburg.com or by calling (731) 286-4673.