Everyone loves children. So believes Marylynn Jones, who has been an anchor at the House of Ruth Pregnancy Care Center in Cottonwood for much of the Center’s life. She is stepping down to let someone else take the lead. The work has been both challenging and rewarding.
House of Ruth began in 1988 as an outreach ministry of the Calvary Chapel. Marylynn signed up as a volunteer the following year and went through the training to become a peer counselor to deal with crisis issues. “Jan 1, 1997, I became the director.”
There are often drugs or alcohol involved, blind youth and immaturity, lack of preparation, no doctor, and on and on…
Marylynn says there is that eternal bright side to the work. “Because there are those little rays of sunshine and the quiet sweetness, the appreciation and the children we see regularly and watch grow. And there are these young men and women that break that cycle by sticking with the training lessons.
It is challenging
“Any woman or a girl of child-bearing age can have a crisis pregnancy. Yes, there often is a crisis involved. We’re there to help them work through their issues, talk about their options, and then we support them along the way if they get caught in the parenting lessons.”
But the options for the House of Ruth are very direct.
“To encourage life. We have seen over the years, the consequences of abortion,” Jones says. “There are difficult and emotional consequences from abortion. And they will never, ever get that child back. It’s gone. They can’t replace it.
“The women I have talked to, they have had an abortion, they are suffering from depression, destructive behavior, anorexia, bulimia, drugs, alcohol. You name it. They don’t seem to connect the two. They don’t realize that behavior is starting or worsens after their abortion. Or that they need anti-depressants after their abortion. I see it so much. It is so prominent. It
is a great destroyer of women and families.”
The biggest challenge is ignorance.
“Ignorance about the life in the womb and ignorance of the consequences of abortion; ignorance about the abstinence until marriage. Abstinence works. Ignorance or apathy don’t,” she insists
The average young person thinks, ”It won’t happen to me. Think of Barrows Neurological in Phoenix. Many of those patients have been riding motorcycles without a helmet. They are immature risk-takers.”
But it spans all ages: teens, 20s, 30s and even 40 years old. The average age is 21.
“It is a mixed bag… though mostly young people, often unattached. Sometimes the grandmothers of the babies get involved, and the boyfriends. Some boys start out good... but don’t stay around.”
“We see grandparents pretty often. Grandparents are the safety net, but sometimes grandparents are in trouble themselves. Drug issues or they don’t have jobs or physical problems. They aren’t living in a place where they can have small children easily or in a safe environment.
“We have even had great-grandparents.”
No doctor? House of Ruth makes referrals. Midwife Stephanie Purinton is a favorite. “She is excellent with her clients,” Jones says.
Making a choice
Many girls have already done a home pregnancy test and it shows positive before they walk through the door. “They have started thinking through what they want to do. But, they really appreciate the time and attention we give them, talk things over. Sometimes there are tears in that counseling room. If we have a client with a positive pregnancy test, we give them a large packet of pre-natal information, pre-natal vitamins and all kinds of referrals. We also give her a pair of baby booties and a baby blanket of some kind. And we encourage her to get involved in parenting classes. At the parenting classes, they can earn Mommy money. If there is a daddy, they can earn Daddy money, to buy diapers, wipes, formula. We have maternity clothing and we have infants clothing from birth through size four.
Becoming a volunteer
“We always need volunteers because we have a high rate of attrition. Some of them move, some get jobs or there are health issues and other things.”
“Everyone does need specialized training to become a good listener, figuring out how to draw out the client. We have specific training, there are manuals and videos and we give them a checklist and they read material. As they work through the program, they start shadowing either with parenting-lesson clients or pregnancy tests clients and some of the volunteers want to go through both training, so they can care for both types of clients. It takes a couple of months to go through the training.
“We just require that volunteers show up once a week for three hours. Some like to come more often and some stay longer.”
Stress comes with the job
“There is some stress because there are some difficult situations and they really learn to care for their clients. But, volunteers go home, I am very blessed to have two assistant directors and they have shared a great deal of the burden. Yes, at times it can be very stressful for the director and assistant director.”
Not prepared financially
When girls have a positive pregnancy that can be verified, they can apply for assistance through DES. “Most of them do qualify and have inadequate insurance. And then there is WIC. Almost everyone qualifies for WIC, which provides food vouchers at the grocery and helps monitors a child until age 5.”
Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a federal grant program that provides supplemental food, nutrition education and healthcare referrals for low-income women and children until age five, found to be at risk nutritionally.
“We watch the birth announcements in the newspaper and if its one of the our gals, we send along a card and invite her in for a brand new bag of baby items and encourage them to continue to come in for parenting classes. Most are single mothers, sometimes there is a father involved. We do have married couples; we really enjoy those folks. “
Expansion in future
There is no competition for what House of Ruth provides. But Marylynn would like a satellite center to supplement the services available in Cottonwood.
“We tried one year in Camp Verde for about six months. We did not have enough volunteers and we were operating in the foyer of a church, so that didn’t work so well.”
Other pregnancy care centers have satellites. “The Showlow care center has satellites in Eager and Springerville and also on the Indian reservation. In Phoenix there are a number of satellite centers,” she says.
Marylynn estimates there are about 3,000 pregnancy care centers in the United States and around the world. “We are not part of a chain, but we are affiliated with an international organization called Heartbeat International. It is their materials that we use for training.”
She and an assistant director, Lou, attended their Los Angeles conference last year.
After 23 years, Marylynn says it is time now for someone with more energy and fresh ideas to come and take over. One of her assistants, Meg, is moving so the two jobs are being combined to create an executive director position.
“We are hoping that person will extend the hours we are open. We have already gotten a lot of interest. But, others interested in the job, can call the House of Ruth at 634-0212 and talk to Marylynn, Meg or Lou to get a special email address for resumes.
This year’s Walk for Life will also include two runs, a 5K and a 10K.
Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
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Marylynn Jones has been a blessing to this valley through her work at The House of Ruth. Her quiet and loving support has turned the tables for countless young women and thier families. She will be a hard act to follow. I wish her all the best on her next ventures. You will be missed Marylynn.