Pregnancy care center celebrates 20 years of helping women in crisis

The Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center celebration included portraits of families who have received services over the last two decades.

Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

When Kelsie Elliott was just 20 years old, she became pregnant with her first child. Her inexperience with pregnancy led her to the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center where the welcoming and safe environment helped prepare her for her journey into motherhood. With the help and guidance of the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center, Elliot welcomed her first child in April 2009. 

Shortly after giving birth to her first son, Elliott became addicted to methamphetamines and spent the next five years in and out of jail, struggling with substance addiction, and immersed in a domestic violence relationship. At 25 years old, Elliott learned that she was pregnant again and once again turned to the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center. Throughout her pregnancy with her daughter, the center helped to support Elliott to stay sober and prepare for her next child. However, shortly after the birth of her other daughter, Elliott once again fell to the devastating grip of substance addiction. After being arrested for driving under the influence of meth, Elliott made the decision to check herself into a year-long rehab program. That is when the center helped Elliott to change the trajectory of her life for the betterment of her family. With the help of the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center, Elliott got and stayed sober, and worked to reconstruct the values and foundations she wanted in her life for herself and her children. 

“Almost 13 years have passed since the first time I came to Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center,” Elliott said while speaking to a crowd at the 20th anniversary of the center. “Since that time, I have lived through many ups and downs; however, I never stopped pushing forward. Today, my family and I live a comfortable life here in Macon County. Together as a family, we enjoy outdoor activities such as camping and swimming, and the kids enjoy participating on various sports teams such as football, competition cheerleading, and gymnastics. I want to thank everyone at the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center for all the support provided to my family and me. Thank you all so much for being such an important part of my story.”

Elliott is set to graduate college in December of this year as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor and currently serves as an intern for No Wrong Door for Support and Recovery. 

Elliott was one of the guest speakers at the 20 year celebration of the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center. The Pregnancy Care Center is a nonprofit agency that offers care and support to women and men facing an unplanned pregnancy. Its free and confidential services include but are not limited to pregnancy tests, limited ultrasound, maternity and baby clothes and accessories, adoption referral, post-abortion counseling, educational materials, and friendship. Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center services are offered without regard to age, race, income, nationality, religious affiliation, disability and/or arbitrary circumstances. Clients of the center are treated with kindness and compassion.

Through both tragedy and overheard conversations, in 1999, the damaging and deadly effects of casual sex and an unexpected pregnancy shocked the Macon County community. One local pastor’s wife responded to this situation and by 2001 opened SMPCC as a resource and support center in Franklin, offering parenting and life skills lessons, access to a rewards closet, and trained peer counseling. By 2004, the clinic incorporated pregnancy testing, limited ultrasound scans, medical consultations and community referrals. Becoming a medical clinic expanded its impact and brought many more abortion vulnerable women and men to the center. 

Saturday’s celebration showcased the center’s new mobile unit, which provides care for patients across Western North Carolina through mobile technology and staffing. The mobile unit — named Harmoni after a child born to E’Nisha Morris, a client of the pregnancy care center is scheduled to service WNC from Buncombe County and west. 

The celebration featured portraits of more than a dozen families to receive services from the center over the last two decades. Some stories told of how the Pregnancy Care Center helped them to navigate the process of placing a child up for adoption, while others talked about how the center was available for concerned parents when doctors offices were full and not otherwise available in the small rural town. 

Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland, a former board member of the pregnancy care center, spoke about his time working as a detective for the Sheriff’s Office when the body of a deceased newborn was found among the waste at the landfill. Sheriff Holland used that experience as a way to show just how important the resources at the center are for the communities it serves.