PTRC expands reach with mobile unit

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Accessing the services of the Pregnancy Test and Resource Center (PTRC) is easier for clients in rural Walker, Winston and Marion counties now that the faith-based nonprofit has acquired a mobile unit.

With the RV, PTRC staff can provide all of the services clients receive at the center in downtown Jasper, including free pregnancy testing, ultrasound, parenting classes and baby items.

The mobile unit, which was used for the first time on Sept. 18, is currently going out on Fridays. The schedule rotates each week between Grace Baptist Church in Sumiton, Main Street Ministries in Double Springs, Winfield Church of God and First Baptist Church of Haleyville.

Additional visits to some of these locations may be added soon to meet the demand, and stops in Arley and Hamilton may be added to the schedule as well, according to PTRC executive director Jenny Odom.

Reducing the transportation barrier for clients who drive long distances to the center has been a goal for at least seven years, Odom said. The closest medical pregnancy centers to the PTRC are located in Tupelo, Muscle Shoals, Hartselle, Fultondale, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, meaning some clients must drive at least 45 minutes to an hour to receive services.

“We thought about satellite centers, but we didn’t know how to choose. We have just as many coming from in between here and Fultondale as we do Winston County. This mobile unit is basically a satellite center on wheels,” Odom said.

PTRC supporters learned of the plan to eventually purchasing a mobile unit at the 2019 Celebrating the Gift of Life banquet. Donations began flowing in following a pastor’s breakfast in August 2019.

Pregnancy centers in urban areas have been using mobile units, but it is rare for one to serve rural areas, according to Odom.

The 2016-model unit, which is built to be used by medical pregnancy centers, was purchased from a center in Georgia during the pandemic.

Though clients are welcome to walk up when the RV is in their community, appointments are recommended. Clients are typically being scheduled at least an hour apart for both privacy reasons and to allow time for sanitizing.

Odom said staff members have tried to replicate the experience of visiting the center as close as possible in the mobile unit. The current exception is group parenting classes. Though the RV can comfortably seat up to three people for a class, that cannot happen now because of social distancing. 

During the pandemic, classes have switched to online-only. The churches where the mobile unit is parked each week have also offered a room inside their respective buildings for classes.

The unit is typically out for six hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Sumiton, Winfield and Haleyville and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Double Springs). A full day consists of at least four appointments and several walk-up clients.

To make an appointment, call the center at 205-221-5860.

The mobile unit is currently being staffed by two to three people on Fridays, a day that the center in Jasper is closed. Eventually, one person will be designated to be in charge of the unit.

“With COVID, we learned a lot. We had to restructure who was doing what because we didn’t have volunteers coming in anymore. We’ve been able to prioritize and become more efficient, so we have been able to take on a lot of the mobile unit duties. Eventually, though, we’ll have to hire someone to go out on it each time,” Odom said.

The PTRC has remained open throughout the pandemic. Visits have been moved to the lobby to allow for easier sanitizing and limited to the individual receiving services. Those services that could be discussed over the phone have been, classes have moved online and clothes closet pickup has been moved curbside. 

“We haven’t had any less visits than we normally would have because of COVID. It’s just looked different and we’ve really had to be flexible with how we’re serving,” Odom said.

The PTRC is funded primarily through donations. Because of the pandemic, its fifth annual Golf Classic at Musgrove Country Club has been changed from a one-day event to a fundraiser that is ongoing between Oct. 9 and Nov. 20. 

The cost to participate is $400 per team, which includes a T-shirt. Registration is taking place online at tinyurl.com/2020ptrcgolfclassic. 

The mobile unit's schedule is Double Springs on Oct. 23, Winfield on Oct. 30 and Haleyville on Nov. 6. 

For more information, visit the Pregnancy Test and Resource Center Facebook page.