Down a busy street on a small plot of land surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Conway, there is a quaint little home that to the naked eye would not seem significant to the city around it.
In this home, however, lives one of Conway’s most hospitable, faith driven inhabitants. ‘Her’ name and ‘her’ teachings are Life Choices.
Life Choices Pregnancy Resource Center opened its doors in 1980 and has been serving the Conway community for more than 38 years.
“’She’s’ had a couple of different names, but it’s always been the same mission,” said Executive Director Maria Speer.
By offering confidential and free services such as pregnancy testing, pregnancy options counseling, limited ultrasound, post abortion support, community referrals and parenting classes, Life Choices devotes ‘her’ time to helping women, and their families, through the processes and decisions of bringing new life into the world.
Driven by faith, a devoted staff and many volunteers, Life Choices’ goal is to make the journey of pregnancy a special, joyous experience by offering a safe place to young women.
Speer, executive director for the past 13 years, says all she has ever wanted to do is help people and that she used to think teaching was the way.
However, God had different plans.
“Life has taken me on a journey and God brought me here. I have [since] realized there are a lot of ways to help people, and sometimes that means you aren’t necessarily the one in front of them, [but] behind the scenes making it happen,” she explained
And former client Morgan Drayton can attest to that statement.
Eighteen years old and pregnant, Morgan says a friend told her about Life Choices.
“I was scared, [but] Life Choices was really kind and caring,” said Morgan.
She went through parenting classes, counseling sessions, and says that Life Choices became a place of refuge for her during a difficult time in her life.
“I appreciate everything they did, they were very helpful. It’s such an amazing organization,” Morgan said.
Morgan is now the proud mother of two children, and a recent college grad with plans to earn her Masters.
When asked what she would say to others in her situation, Morgan says “There’s always hope. Life happens. Just keep your head up, pray and seek God, because it will get better.”
In an effort to better help young women like Morgan, Life Choices recently moved into ‘her’ first permanent establishment.
At the June ribbon-cutting ceremony, Speer explained that though Life Choices has been serving the community for nearly 40 years, this would be the first time “she” would be serving out of “her” own facility.
Prior to the new establishment, Life Choices had been working out of rented office space.
“We felt like we had the permission from the Lord to move forward and begin looking for our own facility,” said Speer.
Working with a $600,000 budget, the board of directors was finally able to find a property that fit all criteria set for the new facility after a decision to search began nearly four years ago.
One aspect of criteria that the board was adamant about was that the facility be within a certain mile radius of the University of Central Arkansas.
“It’s not that we [set out] to serve them more than others,” explained Speer.
“We just felt like there are so many students that fit our demographic, that [by] being closer to them, we can reach more of them and be more of a help.”
Many factors then went into making the new facility open for business.
The property had to be rezoned for office purposes, as it was originally residential, and then it was on to construction.
“Along the way we had people step up,” said Speer.
Ray Nabholz of NBMC served as project manager and volunteered his time to the cause.
H&M architects also donated many hours to the project through plans and revisions and unforeseen circumstances along the way.
After the purchase of the property, an addition to the building, paving a parking lot, landscaping and furnishings, the total cost comes in just under their original budget.
“...which is amazing, considering we even did more than originally planned,” Speer said with a smile. “I think that’s a testament to [the fact that] from the beginning, God has had his hand on this.”
With the opening of the new facility, Life Choices has better means to continue to serve the young women in ‘her’ community.
Wiping a tear as she spoke, Speer smiled and said “I think all of us do what we do because we genuinely care about these women, their families and their babies and we want them to know they are not alone.”
Executive Director – Maria Speer
Nurse Manager - Lisa Speer
Client Services Manager - Julie Martin
Center Manager - Bethany Nelson
Client Advocate - Deb Hogan
Center Bookkeeper - Rachel Hall
Assistant to the Director - Jamie Bagby