The heart of the Center

By Lisa Britton June 02, 2010 02:15 pm
Alberta Darlington, 73, has a passion for the Rachel Pregnancy Center

Alberta Darlington with her grandson Sage, 4, who often visits his grandma when she’s working at the Rachel Pregnancy Center in Baker City. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr)
When Alberta Darlington says “babies,” her voice is so full of love you feel she’d do pretty much anything to protect the precious children.

And she does.

Darlington, 73, is the executive director of the Rachel Pregnancy Center in Baker City, a place originally founded to assist women who found themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy.

These days, any caregivers — parents, grandparents, foster parents — can seek help at the center to find clothing, diapers and, maybe most of all, support.

“I just want to make a difference,” Darlington says.

The center is faith-based, funded entirely by donations, and staffed by volunteers. Darlington is the only paid employee.

The center originally opened in 1992. In November 2001, it closed for six months.

It was around that time that Darlington was looking for something to fill her spare time.

“I didn’t want to stay home,” she says.

For a year prior, she’d worked with Pathway Hospice, visiting patients who were terminally ill.

“I did pretty well for a while, then kind of crashed and burned,” she says of her hospice work.

“Then I heard Debbie King was looking for someone to answer phones at the Rachel Pregnancy Center.”

She helped King reopen the center — after a lot of work.

“The center was closed down, cleaned out,” she says. “She and I put it back together.”

It re-opened May 1, 2002, at 2194 Court Ave. It has since moved one office east in the same complex, 2192 Court Ave.

But the quarters are cramped, with one room for boys clothes and one room for girls clothes and maternity clothing stacked in the middle.

From mid-April to mid-May, the center had 141 client calls.

And it’s only open three days a week.

“We’re seeing a lot more people,” she said. “There are more people affected the longer this crunch goes. What do you not buy that you normally buy?”

The center’s major expense each month is diapers. Even with buying the store brand at Albertsons, Darlington spent nearly $3,000 on diapers from Jan. 1 to May 21.

When caregivers request diapers, they receive 25 per child.

Julia Keyes first came to the center when she was pregnant with her son, and now she is working at the center on a work experience program through DHS.

Now pregnant with her second child, she is still grateful for the help she received at the center.

“She’s helped out a lot,” Keyes said of Darlington.

She gets clothes from the center, and always returns them when her son moves to a bigger size.

“I figure somebody else can use them,” she said.

And though she tries to budget her diaper money each month, sometimes she falls a bit short. That’s when she seeks help at the Rachel Center, though she’d rather be donating diapers than receiving them.

“When things get a lot better, I’ll buy diapers for here,” Keyes said. “It’s on my wish list for what I’d like to do now.”

In addition to  clothing and diapers, the center offers parenting classes, videos for new mothers and information from a lactation consultant.

And Darlington has counseled numerous women who were set on getting an abortion.

She says she’s saved at least four babies.

“That’s just four that I know of,” she says.

Prayer is a big part of her job.

“I pray with all of them, and I’ve never had one say ‘no, you can’t,’ ” she says.

She’s grown in her faith during her eight years at the center.

“You have to grow someway, if you have a passion for the ministry,” she says.

And her passion is around the clock.

“It’s 24-7. I get calls in the middle of the night,” she says.

(Remember, she works with expectant moms, and babies aren’t good at waiting until regular work hours.)

And for all this, she’d love to see the center grow even more — especially in a space where it could expand.

“We have a lot of stuff in storage because we don’t have room,” she says “If anybody’s got a bigger building they’d like to donate — we’re bursting at the seams.”

She’d also like to offer classes to help the clients build life skills.

“There’s so much more we can do — teach cooking, teach sewing. I still have a passion and a vision. Help them understand they can manage to work and have kids, too. It is possible.”

In the meantime, they are looking ahead to December and the annual Celebration of Life Christmas tree.

For that event, where anyone in the community can find toys, clothes and other gifts to help put presents under their own Christmas tree, the Rachel Center needs donations.

Darlington said they especially need clothing for older children, teenagers and adults, as well as “gifty items.”

As for the regular operation, the center is a bit short on clothing for girls, size 3T. The bigger clothing is usually  more scarce, compared to the racks of almost-new outfits for babies younger than 1 year.

Darlington also needs volunteers — people to cover the front desk, to wash the new donations or to help organize the clothing.

“That can be time consuming,” she says.

For more information on getting involved, call Darlington at the center, 541-523-5357.

Fundraiser planned

The Rachel Pregnancy Center is currently in the midst of its “Baby Bottle Drive” fundraiser. Baby bottles have been placed at various churches around town to collect donations, and more bottles are available at the center for any businesses that would like to help raise money.

The money raised helps center operations, especially the diaper budget that runs about $600 a month.

This fundraiser continues through Father’s Day. For information, call the center at 541-523-5357, or stop by at 2192 Court Ave.