Karen Brooks, current director of LifeCare and Cookie Gray, former director, are excited about the plans and changes happening during their 25th anniversary.
In 1987, there weren’t many options available for females when faced with an unplanned pregnancy in Hillsborough County. The pregnancy rate was continually increased; however the services to help those facing an uncertain future were minimal.
Fortunately, these needs were recognized by First United Methodist Church in Brandon and the center was born. Originally called The Crisis Pregnancy Center, it soon changed it’s name to LifeCare Center of Brandon and it has helped more than 60,000 people over the past 25 years.
Current director, Karen Brooks, is also celebrating a milestone, as this marks her one-year anniversary as executive director of LifeCare. The original and founding director, Cookie Gray, was instrumental in the success of the center and is still involved today.
“We are inspired to impact people to become healthy parents,” explained Brooks. “I firmly believe in Jeremiah 29:11 that tells us ‘ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
The center now has more than 400 client visits monthly. “Many are pregnant young women and, through counseling, a majority of these women chose options such as adoption or to keep their babies instead of abortion,” said Brooks.
Many programs are offered through LifeCare to ensure that these new families are headed for success. The staff and volunteers care about how the families and classes are held to teach parenting skills and how to break unhealthy family cycles. Among the classes offered are spiritual growth sessions, couples counseling and mentoring. “We teach them God’s plan for a family,” said Brooks.
LifeCare also focuses on the role of the father in a child’s life and offers a class called “The Quest.” This class inspires and impacts young men to be Godly men and fathers. In addition, another class offered is “Women of Worth” and is designed to help women heal from past unhealthy relationships.
LifeCare has an “earn while you learn” philosophy. The center provides an opportunity to receive baby supplies to parents that attend the classes. For each class attended, the parent receives a “baby buck” that allows them to purchase items from the LifeCare baby boutique – items range from diapers, bottles, cribs and clothing. “We are always in need of diaper donations,” added Brooks.
As a supplement to their programs, LifeCare also provides help and healing for women who have previously chosen to have an abortion.
This group is called “Surrendering The Secret” and focuses on healing the hurt many women experience post-abortion.
All programs offered by LifeCare are free – graciously funded by donations and community partners including a generous grant from the Brandon Foundation and support from 32 local area churches.
Brooks remains hopeful about purchasing a home, which will be named “Haven of Hope.” They have raised $75,000 towards the goal. “A house was found last year, however, due to a series of events, the sale did not take place,” explained Brooks.
This was enormously disappointing. “Right now, the closest house that provides residential services to homeless, pregnant women is the Alpha House in Tampa, and they are always full,” said Brooks. They continue to look for a house in the area with six or more bedrooms. “We are asking the churches as the bodies of Christ to come to together to provide a much needed Christ-centered housing for single women and their babies,” said Brooks.
Upcoming fundraisers for LifeCare include: a ladies Spring Tea in March, a golf tournament at River Hills Country Club in April, a Walk For Life in May on the Brandon Parkway and the annual Fundraising Gala being held on Thursday, October 25. Last year’s gala was attended by 800 people and raised $178,000. They hope to raise more than $200,000 this year.
Brooks is excited about two big announcements planned for the anniversary year. The first is the opening of a new satellite facility in the Ruskin/South Shore area at 310 1st N.E., in Ruskin. The offices were donated by Pastor Michael Kyker of Journey Church and will be open to three days a week The second announcement is the addition of an in-house sonogram center at the main facility located at 122 N. Moon Ave., in Brandon. This will supplement the free pregnancy testing currently offered.
For more information , call 654-0491 or www.LifeCareofBrandon.com.