Seven years ago, when New Life Family Services chose the Phillips community in South Minneapolis, Minn., as the ideal location for their next First Care Pregnancy Center, they couldn’t have guessed the area would become a hotspot of rioting following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
Yet Tammy Kocher, the ministry’s executive director, is confident this was God’s plan and perfect timing all along.
“I cannot think of a better location in Phillips or anywhere,” Kocher said. “When I think of the impact we're going to be able to have alongside the other nonprofits that are already working in the community, I could not be more excited about that.”
Kocher’s fifth First Care Pregnancy Center location is slated to rise next spring, just half a block from Minnesota’s busiest bus stop at the corner of Chicago and Franklin Avenues. The 12,600-sqare-foot facility will provide office space not only for the pregnancy center, but also for an independent medical clinic and several other nonprofit partners already serving in the area.
"There are so many great social services here in Phillips,” Kocher said. “But there is a significant lack of life-affirming pregnancy and parenting resources, which is our strength.”
To fill that gap, the coming First Care Pregnancy Center will bring experience gained in other high-impact communities in Minneapolis, Richfield, St. Paul, and Rochester.
Kocher’s team has long served populations plagued by the same poverty, drugs and trafficking that are commonplace in Phillips. Their holistic view of what it means to be pro-life includes staffing licensed social workers, nurses, and trauma-informed parenting coaches.
A truly holistic approach, Kocher was quick to note, will depend on teamwork with those already serving the Phillips community.
Collaboration is key to serving well
“Our clients have multiple needs,” Kocher said. “They don't just need pregnancy services; they don't just need an ultrasound or a pregnancy test. They need parenting services, or fatherhood services, or they have school-age kids.”
To meet those needs, New Life Family Services has begun forging connections with organizations such as Breaking Free (support for women leaving sex trafficking), local churches, and Together for Good (temporary housing alternative to foster care).
Connections like these will enable clients of each organization to gain access to all the other kinds of help they need.
Yet another need still weighted Kocher’s heart: medical services.
“One of our dreams has been to provide prenatal services to our clients,” Kocher said. “So many of the women coming to us don't get any prenatal care because it's just one more obstacle they have to overcome. We are so excited to be partnering with Community Care Clinic. They are going to be offering a full-service medical clinic, including prenatal care, right in our building.”
Community Care Clinic’s medical director, Dr. Robert Larbi-Odam, said his own mission dovetails perfectly with that of New Life Family Services.
“Community Care Clinic is set up to serve the medically underserved population,” he said. “We have family appointments, so you have Mom and four children all coming at once. That is very important for single mothers.”
“This is going to add a whole level of care for our clients that we are not able to provide right now,” Kocher said. “I'm looking forward to the continuity of care they can get. If they choose life, immediately connecting them with prenatal care will make such a difference for them and their children.”
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Finding a building to suit this vision, however, proved a higher hurdle than Kocher first expected.
“The Lord gave us a gift”
After failing to find a good property to rent, Kocher stumbled upon a church and adjacent house for sale. Upon learning of Kocher’s intentions, the owner, Gospel Light Baptist Church, offered to sell both to New Life Family Services at a significant discount.
“I feel like the Lord gave us a gift with this property,” Kocher said.
Unfortunately, both buildings had to be demolished and a new edifice erected. This pumped the project budget past the original $1 million to over $3 million for building expenses plus two years’ operating expenses, despite donated services from their contractor and electrician.
Even with the bigger budget, the ministry’s donors remained passionate about seeing the Phillips neighborhood served. Not even COVID and its challenges dampened their giving.
“We've seen our greatest growth in the worst economic times,” Kocher said. “Despite the challenges of this year, we have seen a tremendous response to our Phillips project and are now just $300K short of our goal.”
Construction is scheduled to begin in March or April—at the same time as the trials for police officers involved in George Floyd’s death.
“This will be a painful moment in the community, but we know that we are called and equipped to be messengers of hope,” Kocher said.
And, she added, “First Care Pregnancy Center and its Phillips community partners will soon work side by side to bring positive change to our neighbors’ lives.”