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Community of Faith

Cramped crisis pregnancy center to move

By CANDICE HANNIGAN
For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/15/06

Tracey Casale likens the current Beacon of Hope Crisis Pregnancy Center to the small manger in which Jesus was born.

A miracle took place in that setting more than 2,000 years ago, Casale said, just as miracles are happening in the small house where desperate women come for hope and help.

“Operating out of 700 square feet with 300 volunteers and 1,000 clients a year is an interesting endeavor,” said the Beacon of Hope director.
Just the other day as Casale entered the house, she encountered “an infant carrier with a newborn on the floor, five people in a waiting room the size of a small bathroom, two people — one client and one counselor — in one counseling room, two in another and two others in the other offices. And we had a flood last week. I just laughed and said, ‘It’s time, Lord.’ ” Time for a new place, she meant.

Once construction is finished on a 13,000-square-foot, three-story facility, the nonprofit organization will have room to spread out and bring all facets of the outreach under one roof.

While the first floor of a small house is the site where clients come for counseling, the hub of the center’s abstinence program is in a part-time worker’s basement. It’s a popular program that Casale said is growing and making a difference in north Fulton County.site where clients come for counseling, the hub of the center’s abstinence program is in a part-time worker’s basement. It’s a popular program that Casale said is growing and making a difference in north Fulton County.

In 1999, Beacon representatives started teaching abstinence in sex education classes at Chattahoochee High School. Word of the program got out and, within two years, Casale said the center couldn’t keep up with the demand from the school system.

Currently part-time staffers are bringing the message to students at Centennial, Independence, Milton, Chattahoochee, Roswell as well as Northview and Alpharetta high schools. During presentations to private Christian schools, the Christian aspect of the message is stressed.

One of the four abstinence teachers lives in Newnan, and has brought the program to several schools in Fairburn. Beacon has partnered with Perimeter Church to create a parent component to the program. Small group sessions are held to empower parents to discuss a “naturally uncomfortable” subject with their children, said Casale.

In the new facility, basement space will be dedicated to a store with baby supplies and a community room where workshops and gatherings can be held. An exam room and a registered nurse will be available for ultrasounds and follow-up medical care for pregnant women.

“Once you have that life-affirming medical care on site, 79 to 90 percent of women who get a positive pregnancy diagnostic with support and care choose life,” said Casale.

Beacon’s current roommate is Summit Counseling, an outreach on the second floor of the house. Summit will move to the top floor of the new building, continuing a unique relationship between the two nonprofit organizations.

Both Beacon and Summit operate under the Mount Pisgah family of ministries, according to Summit director David Smith. Each ministry has a 501(c)3, nonprofit status but maintains an affiliation with the Alpharetta church.

“I’ve never seen another church that has anything like this,” said Mount Pisgah United Methodist senior pastor Allen Hunt. “This new home for the Summit and the Beacon is a real living testimony to our desire to serve the hopes and the hurts in this community.”

Former pastor Warren Lathem started the ministry 17 years ago. In the five years that Smith has been director of the center, the number of clients has more than doubled.

“In the first quarter of this year, we saw over 1,000 sessions. We’re on line to do 4,000 sessions this year,” said Smith. “When I got here they were doing less than 1,000 a year.”

Summit offers counseling to children, families and couples. A specialist in eating disorders is on staff, as well as someone who can diagnose attention deficit disorder and other learning disabilities. One counselor offers an in-depth process that helps students and their families determine possible careers and college choices.

Among the staff of eight very specialized counselors, Smith said “we’re all generalists enough to see [clients] initially, and then decide who can best help them.”

While the center works with Beacon clients, Smith said 90 percent of the folks who seek help at Summit are from the Alpharetta, Roswell and North Georgia communities, with 60 percent having no affiliation with Mount Pisgah.

Those statistics back up the center’s philosophy of not existing merely for the sake of church members.

“The thing with this is not to in-reach to care for our own folks,” stated Smith. “This is intentionally outreach to care for our community. I started work here the same month as Allen Hunt and he was very clear in saying we’re going to be a place of compassion. We’re going to support compassionate ministries.”

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