By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — New life will be breathed into the former Planned Parenthood of the Heartland building when the Women’s Choice Center, a pro-life organization, moves across the street into the facility next month.
A Women’s Choice Center supporter bought the Planned Parenthood facility at the beginning of the year, said Jessica Ricke, development director for the Women’s Choice Center. The donor, who chose to remain anonymous, held the property until the closing on Holy Thursday, March 29, when the Life and Family Educational Trust, which operates the Women’s Choice Center, bought the facility from the donor.
For years, the pro-life organization dreamed about what could go into the Planned Parenthood building if it were to close. When Planned Parenthood announced last summer that it would close four sites in Iowa, including the one in Bettendorf, a task force of pro-life supporters got to work on possible options for the property. “The opportunity came and God has provided for us,” Ricke said. “Everything fell into place.”
The 8,500-square-foot Planned Parenthood building, twice the square footage of the Women’s Choice Center, is undergoing renovations. Staffers at the center, located across the street, have helped rip out carpeting and baseboards to move along the process at the Planned Parenthood building. With permission from Bishop Thomas Zinkula, two priests earlier this year celebrated the “supplication and exorcism” rite of the church for a place that has come under the effects of the demonic.
“We will be moving our ministry over to the newly purchased building in mid-May,” said Vicki Tyler, executive director of the Women’s Choice Center. “There will be no delay in offering our life-affirming services to women and families in need in our community. Our doors are always open.”
The renovated facility will contain two sections. The building’s right side will house the Women’s Choice Center. “There will be more exam rooms, a more efficient flow, room for volunteers and a bigger room for Chloe’s Closet,” Ricke said. The left side will house a pro-life, pro-family, faith-based medical practice, said Mary Jones, Life and Family board president.
The family medical practice will not open right away. “We have sought direction and advice from not only our board and staff, but from local community leaders that believe a Christian-based family medical practice will fill a big need in our Quad-City community,” Jones said. The board is taking time to ensure that every decision is thoughtful and covered in prayer.
A chapel will continue to be part of the Women’s Choice Center, and it will be located in the room where women waited after having an abortion. “This is a fresh start and about forgiveness,” Ricke said.
The existing Women’s Choice Center building will become a Christian daycare operated by Absolutely Positively Kids! — Early Learning Academy, which will lease the center. It will be the second location for the Silvis, Ill.-based daycare, Ricke noted. The academy will start with summer camps for children ages 5-13 in Bettendorf and Silvis. The daycare will open after a license has been issued. Ricke said an aftercare program also will be offered there.
The city of Bettendorf has worked with the Women’s Choice Center to help with this fresh start, Ricke said. The Tech Drive address of the Planned Parenthood building will now bear the same street name as the existing Women’s Choice Center – Happy Joe Drive. The city also agreed to change the “dead end” street sign to read “no outlet.” “This affirms our mission of life and not death,” Ricke said.
Women’s Choice Center opened its doors July 2, 2002, as a pregnancy help medical center. It offers free services to any woman in a crisis pregnancy, Tyler said. The center offers pregnancy testing, limited obstetric ultrasound, pregnancy counseling, STI testing for women, perinatal hospice and the attempted reversal of the abortion pill RU-486. The center also offers items through Chloe’s Closet, such as maternity clothing, diapers, wipes, formula and other baby items.
Two years ago the center added a mobile medical unit named “Grace” staffed with a registered nurse and social workers to provide the same services as the center. Grace travels to seven locations throughout the Quad-City area.
Ricke said a fundraising campaign will be launched in the future to help pay for the new facility and expanded operations. An open house will be scheduled at a later date.
For more information, visit www.womenschoicecenter.come or contact Tyler at Vicki@womenschoicecenter.org. For information on Absolutely Positively Kids Summer Camps, visit www. APK-Academy.com.
Women’s Choice Center stats
• More than 8,300 women served from 2002-2017.
• 892 babies, according to documented evidence, have been saved since 2002.
• 79 percent of clients live in poverty or are unemployed
• Clients range in age from 12-52; 66 percent are in their 20s.
• Clinic hours on Happy Joe Drive — Monday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; third Saturday of every month, 9 a.m. to noon.
• Mobile Medical Unit hours — Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, go to: www.qcmobilemedicalunit.org.