A site for hope

Published 11:16 am Friday, October 5, 2012

Joanne Rasmussen is the director of Rachel's Hope, a Christian organization that helps people with crisis pregnancies. Rachel's Hope has clothes, diapers and baby food to help mothers.

Austin mothers-to-be have long had a place to turn when they’ve needed support.

Rachel’s Hope has offered pregnancy tests, education and baby supplies to expectant mothers in the Austin area for almost 15 years. Two days a week, the Christian organization helps new parents and parents-to-be prepare with their new responsibilities.

“The name Rachel’s Hope came from the Bible,” Director Joanne Rasmussen said.

Rachel's Hope has served Austin for a number of years, helping those women who are dealing with crisis prenancies.

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In the Bible, Rachel wept for her dead children. The unplanned pregnancy organization’s goals include encouraging parents to carry through with birthing and not to seek an abortion.

“It’s a faith-based, pro-life caring pregnancy center,” Rasmussen said.

The organization offers free, self-administered pregnancy tests. Rachel’s Hope volunteers are not able to diagnose the women who come to them, since the office is not a medical facility. But they can discuss the results of the tests, and offer advice going forward.

“If they are not pregnant, then we talk about how they can maybe make other choices,” Rasmussen said.

If a client tests positive, the organization helps supply them with the diapers, clothing and other supplies they need to prepare. For clients to receive the assistance, they need to earn “baby bucks” — points given as rewards for actions that help clients prepare for parenthood. These include watching educational DVDs, writing reports on parenting and going to job interviews.

“We encourage them to set goals and try to move forward with their lives,” Rasmussen said.

Peer advisors help expecting parents manage their needs, whether they be emotional, physical, spiritual or educational.

“They have an appointment every month,” she said. The visits can start as soon as a expectant mother learns she’s pregnant, and continue on until her child reaches the age of 2.

Clients between the ages of 13 and 40 seek the services of Rachel’s Hope, but the average age is 26. About 45 clients, a mixture of new faces and scheduled appointments, come to Rachel’s hope each month. Rasmussen said the organization’s clientele has grown a little since it began in 1998.

Rasumessen herself took the reins in 2005. She knew little about the organization, but found herself talking to one of the original workers at the county fair. The woman was planning on retiring, and said she was looking for a replacement.

“I said, ‘Hmm, this is where I want to be,’” Rasmussen said. “This is where God put me.”

Except for the January, February and March — during which she lives in Arizona and the volunteers take over — Rasmussen runs Rachel’s Hope all year. She usually has about six volunteers, plus a Spanish interpreter that Rasmussen said “has helped out tremendously” in reaching a larger portion of Austin’s population.

The organization also has a secretary who, for the moment, is paid through the Experience Works program. That funding will end in February.

“We are going to have to find a salary for her if we want to keep her, and we do want to keep her,” she said.

Various churches in town help support Rachel’s Hope, and some money has also come from The Hormel Foundation and the Kiwannis Club. The organization does not take government funding, because that would prevent them from giving spiritual advice, Rasmussen said.

The next fundraising event comes on Nov. 12 at Pizza Ranch in Austin. All tips and 10 percent of the money the restaurant brings in from 5 to 8:30 p.m. will go toward Rachel’s Hope.

Those who would like to donate can also stop by the office at 808 W Oakland Ave. to pick up a Bottle of Blessing, which they can then fill with change a bit at a time. Once it’s full, donors can bring it back to the office.

Rachel’s Hope is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There’s also a Thursday Bible study from 9 to 10 a.m.