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Arkansas Pregnancy Resource Center expands after fire

Center aims to build up healthy families and relationships

Published: September 11, 2018   
Dwain Hebda
Client services director April Null (left) and executive director Nicole Lashbrook take a break from a stop of the Arkansas Pregnancy Resource Center’s mobile unit, which helps the group extend its reach.

The site of the former home of the Arkansas Pregnancy Resource Center is mere dirt these days. Heavy machines have demolished and removed the charred remnants of a May 20 fire that destroyed the organization’s west Little Rock main office and leveled the pad site for whatever comes next.

The ministerial spirit of the 30-year-old-plus organization, on the other hand, is not only intact, but bursting with optimism for the future. APRC, also known as St. Joseph Helpers, was already planning an ambitious new chapter in its pro-life ministry, plans the fire have only accelerated.

Last fall, the group’s board greenlighted a plan to expand classes through an additional space and launch outreach into schools on sexual risk avoidance and healthy relationships. After a summer of intense work, all three ministries and a capital campaign to fund them are full steam ahead.

“We work on the spectrum of life in that we’re not just dealing with the unborn child conceived in the womb,” said Nicole Lashbrook, executive director and parishioner at Christ the King Church in Little Rock. “Well, how are we going to raise families? If we just do what the people who are against us say, ‘All you care about is the baby,’ then we’re not meeting what God has in our hearts.”

“We’ve seen our clients change over the years. We’ve been here for 30 years; what worked well 30 years ago isn’t going to meet the need for today.”

The nonprofit has secured new main office space on the same street as before where it will carry out its medical intervention next door to the state’s only surgical abortion clinic. Services will include ultrasound, pregnancy confirmation and options consultation for women in a space Lashbrook said is large enough to accommodate future growth.

Across town, APRC is preparing to move into a second location not far from Our Lady of Good Counsel Church. The new space will be home to a slate of classes designed to help strengthen families and teach life skills.

“I came on board last year in June,” said April Null, client services director and member of Christ the King Church in Little Rock. “My heart lies with the family unit and crafting what should be a strong family unit. Our society has systemically broken that unit down until here we are with a generation of people who don’t know how to family.”

Null had begun discussions with Good Counsel for space to hold these larger classes when Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock, a partner with the organization, offered a permanent location in a property they had at 2100 South Tyler Street. APRC is expected to be fully moved in and conducting classes by the end of September to include such things as family budgeting, breastfeeding, post-abortion recovery, fatherhood classes and mentoring.

“We’d done classes for years. It’s always been focused on pregnancy, prenatal health and early parenting,” Null said. “We were working toward the goal of expanded classes before; the fire basically drop-kicked it and now we’re really able to fly forward.”

The third ministry — outreach — will commence once a new prevention services coordinator is hired. Lashbrook said the plan is to pilot a program into a small number of schools initially, providing education the group had already been doing on a limited basis after being approached by local school administrators.

“We met with administration and they just point blank said, ‘Planned Parenthood used to be in our program teaching sex ed and they lost their grant. Would you be willing to come do that?’” Lashbrook said. “Well, yes! That’s affirmation of a plan the board put in place that, if we really want to avert a crisis, let’s educate, let’s equip young people to avoid a situation altogether.”

A capital campaign to help pay for the expanded services, targeting $600,000, was also already in the works. Now dubbed the “Out of Ashes” campaign, it will officially launch at the organization’s annual Legacy of Life Banquet Oct. 18. APRC is also participating in special fundraising events, including the first Night of Praise concert Sept. 22 at the First Security Bank Amphitheater in Little Rock, an art show by Adorned by Kax Nov. 9 at the Noah Center in west Little Rock and the annual Baby Bottle campaign held in churches throughout APRC’s service area.

“We are a ministry and we prayerfully considered all of this,” Lashbrook said. “We have had so many nudges in the community, ‘Hey, can you do this for us? Hey, can you do that?’ Well, let’s develop a plan and put it in place and then pray over it. And, if it’s God-ordained, it’s going to be successful.”

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