For four decades, the volunteers with Reachout Women’s Center have been reaching out a hand to offer assistance and provide options to those dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.
The center offers confidential pre- and postnatal counseling, pregnancy services, educational programs and resource and referral support.
“There are several reasons we are important: One, we serve the poor, and everything we do is free and has been for 40 years. And two, we are one of the few centers that talk about all the options for pregnancy. We work closely with adoption agencies and have parenting classes and offer a great deal of education,” said Lori Giovannini, executive director of Reachout.
Last year, the Christian nonprofit served more than 6,000 clients, providing limited medical services such as free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and prenatal vitamins; “Baby Shower in a Bag” kits containing diapers, layettes and other baby items.
It also offers parenting classes, a lactation nurse to teach breastfeeding and a Healthy Relationships program for young adults dealing with boyfriends or spouses, parents, teachers and bosses.
The organization is pro-life, but provides clients with all the facts and offers nonjudgmental counseling, Giovannini said.
“Education is key. We want people to know what their choices are and what resources are available,” she said. “Whether they decide to parent or choose alternative parenting, adoption or abortion, they need to be educated.”
She emphasized that many people are unaware than adoption is different now from years past. Modern adoptions present various options for parenting, ranging from open adoption and co-parenting to alternative parenting — which can let a young mother choose someone in her inner circle or a trusted acquaintance to help her raise a child or adopt her child.
“We have had teachers of young students become parents of the student’s child. There are lots of options out there when you sit down and talk about it. People think the only options are parenting or abortion, but there are lots in the middle and we are a great resource,” said Giovannini.
Volunteer Carol Livingston said that in addition to providing education and health services, Reachout offers emotional support, compassion and respect at a time when women are often frightened and confused.
“People are more accepting now if you are unwed and pregnant. There is not so much stigma as there was when I was growing up, but many young girls who find themselves in that situation are conflicted and looking for help and guidance. Reachout gives emotional support and caring that is so important,” said Livingston.
She is a fifth-generation Tucsonan who graduated from Salpointe in 1972 and remembers when Reachout was founded after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling legalized abortion in 1973.
“Some moms of people who I was with at Salpointe decided that girls needed an alternative to abortion, so they set up Reachout in a little house down by the University of Arizona,” Livingston said. “We are completely self-sufficient and get no government funding: Everything comes from donations and always has. Reachout really belongs to our community, and it is overwhelming when you see how generous the people in Tucson are.”
Supporters include individuals, service organizations, clubs and businesses as well as parishes of different denominations — Lutheran, Evangelical, Episcopal and Catholic — through donations, diaper drives, clothing drives and other gifts-in-kind.
“We have been around for so long that we have worked with lots of different agencies in town and are well-known for helping people find resources,” Giovannini said.
“If someone comes in and needs housing or other services, we can work with them to help them get the resources they need,” she said.
She said that in some cases, Reachout services have been accessed by several generations — mothers, daughters and granddaughters — as well as by a middle-income demographic that has grown over the past several years.
“Most of our clients are lower-income, but many in the middle class are struggling, too, and lots of them are uninsured. Our limited medical services are used by anyone that doesn’t have insurance,” she said.
With continued growth, Giovannini emphasized that private contributions in the form of volunteerism and gifts of diapers, baby items and financial donations are more important than ever. She said contributions to the Arizona Tax Credit for the Working Poor also provide vital assistance, and she hopes the upcoming gala will boost the organization’s budget by $50,000.
“Our budget is $170,000 annually, and we really divide the loaf. We are able to do so much because of the generosity of those who support us tirelessly in the Tucson community,” she said.