It’s a Monday afternoon, and Bridge of Hope – Richmond executive director Connie Taylor is in the middle of an interview with accessHealth News. She’s sharing her desire to be an advocate for families via this faith-based women’s clinic when the phone rings.
She answers it. A desperate young couple has a baby who is very sick, and they don’t have insurance. They need help for their infant, but don’t know what to do.
True to the clinic’s name, Taylor extends a bridge of hope by connecting them with Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, which serves all patients regardless of their ability to pay. That fire doused, Taylor hangs up and refocuses on the interviewer.
“Samuel U. Rodgers sends their patients to us to do limited ultrasounds,” she explains. “We send patients back to them for continued care after we do the ultrasounds.”
Bridge of Hope – Richmond (BOH, bridgeofhopeforwomen.org) typically serves individuals in Ray, Lafayette, and Clay Counties. Their client demographic primarily consists of underserved and uninsured pregnant teens and women, ages 12 to 29.
Teen pregnancies are on the rise in the communities BOH serves. Taylor, who was once a teen mother herself, intimately understands the panic of an unplanned pregnancy. “When I was 17, I became pregnant and hid it as long as I could,” she said. Though the ramifications felt overwhelming at times, she had her child in August, went back to school in September, and completed her senior year.
Because she has successfully walked this road, Taylor desires to help others see an unplanned pregnancy as a positive experience instead of a crisis. “I get to speak into the lives of women,” she said. “My mission is to equip, encourage, and empower them.” Though her faith forms the bedrock of everything Taylor does, “To me, a ministry isn’t so much about preaching to a person or always praying. It’s ministering to the needs of others. My goal is to help you succeed.”
In 2013, Taylor opened BOH after working several years with Liberty Women’s Clinic in Liberty, Mo. “Carol Graham, their founder, mentored me as I volunteered at Liberty,” she said. “She saw a calling in me and said I needed to think about opening up my own center in Richmond.”
Once Taylor accepted that responsibility, doors opened. She spoke with a potential landlord, telling him about her mission and asking about a building she could rent. “He was like, ‘Yeah – you can have this one for a year, free,’” she said. “We had five rooms, and everything was furnished to us, from the flooring to the paint on the walls, to the furniture. From that first step, I knew I was where I should be, following what God had given me.”
Core services BOH provides include:
- Pregnancy testing
- Pregnancy education
- Limited ultrasounds
- Community and medical referrals
- H.E.A.R.T. (Healing the Effects of Abortion Related Trauma) classes
“We performed more than 300 pregnancy tests and 72 ultrasounds last year,” Taylor said. An ultrasound confirms the pregnancy, takes measurements of the baby, and notes its gestational age.
When tests show a child is on the way, BOH presents the parents with “Positive” bags. Handouts in the young man’s bag encourage him to stay involved and committed. “One piece is Now That She’s Pregnant, What are You Going to Do? Another write up is How to Take Care of a Pregnant Wife. We work really hard to develop brochures for these guys.” The woman’s bag includes vitamins and self-care items like toiletries and cosmetics. “She receives things to uplift her, so she feels loved when she leaves here.” Both bags also include a Bible.
“We want to stay engaged in the lives of our clients,” Taylor said. “It’s not like we just see them one time for a pregnancy test or an ultrasound. That’s why we designed the parenting classes.” Their “Mom’s Group” meets at BOH at 4 p.m. on the first Monday of every month. Topics include child seat safety, infant CPR, postpartum depression, nutrition, and budgeting. “You’d be surprised how many young mothers haven’t a clue about how to make dollars stretch or how to make your own baby wipes. Again, that’s us equipping them to be successful.”
At the end of each class, attendees are invited to go shopping in the Bridge Store and pick out freebies like shampoo, body wash, makeup, hygiene items, baby clothes, blankets, formula, baby wipes, and ointment.
Healing the Effects of Abortion Related Trauma (H.E.A.R.T.)
So how does seeing what’s going on inside affect these young parents, including those who may be considering abortion? “There are a lot of tears back in that consult room,” Taylor said. “The boyfriend, he’s allowed to come back, too.” Two RNs explain what the young people are seeing on the ultrasound screen. “’Look what God did! Isn’t it beautiful?’”
According to Campaign Life Missouri, abortion rates across Clay, Jackson, Lafayette, and Ray Counties have decreased by 39 percent (October 2017). “These four counties are counties we’ve seen girls from. The numbers speak for themselves, and that’s why our doors are open.”
BOH also offers classes for clients dealing with the emotional aftermath of miscarriage, abortion, or stillbirth. H.E.A.R.T. class leaders are certified responders specially trained to help clients with abortion recovery. “At the end of the course, we hold a celebration, a memorial for the child that helps the mom to heal,” Taylor said. “On several occasions, the whole family has come. It’s been very touching, very healing for that young lady.”
How You Can Help
BOH partners with health care providers like Health Care Collaborative of Rural Missouri (hccnetwork.org), Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center (rodgershealth.org), House of Hope (lexingtonhouseofhope.org), and Baby Grace (babygrace.org).
BOH is currently seeking a client advocate volunteer. Think you might be interested? See info about this position and other ways to support this ministry on BOH’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bridgeofhope4women.
Upcoming fundraising events include a BOH open house during the Mushroom Festival Parade (May 4), an ice cream booth during Richmond’s American Celebration (June 28), a banquet at the Montgomery Event Venue in Excelsior Springs (October 18), and a Christmas Parade of Homes (Dec. 7).
“Our supporters are the ones who keep us up and running, and we cannot thank them enough,” Taylor said. “We’ve gone to great lengths to be good stewards of the monies donated to this center. If someone reading this would like to participate in our operation, we certainly will not take that lightly.”