For Colleen Geisel, new executive director of Alpha Women’s Center of Grand Rapids, this is a revisioning time at the center. She and the staff are narrowing their vision to not duplicate services available at other organizations, adding services not being offered elsewhere, and discovering which things they do well.
“We’re in a position to grow exponentially thanks to our facility and our location,” said Geisel, who has been director for three months. She and her family returned to Grand Rapids after 12 years working and serving in Asia.
“I had no intention of taking the job, but I walked into the building and the Spirit of God was in this place. I could not leave,” she said. “God called me into ministry in 1991 at Calvary Church and he won’t let me do anything else.”
Alpha Women’s Center of Grand Rapids, located in a former funeral home at 1725 Division Ave. South in Grand Rapids, boasts nearly 18,000 square feet of usable space including basement storage and a three-stall garage used for storing donated supplies. Its high ceilings, good-sized rooms, cheerful colors and ample sunlight welcome clients and volunteers alike.
There were 3,400 client visits in 2013, which Geisel forecasts could double by 2015 if funding and volunteer help increases.
“We have 100 volunteers a month, including 20 mentors and other client advocates. I’d like to double the number of mentors, and we especially need bilingual, Spanish speaking mentors,” said Geisel, who is one of 10 paid employees.
She’s sees the pregnancy care center as unique in that they believe in empowering the whole woman. Their target client is a single woman in a low-income environment who has no support system. More than 40 percent of clients are Hispanic.
“Our niche is to empower women in desperate situations to embrace their brokenness and find Christ there,” said Geisel. “I think this work can explode and really change this community.”
The Alpha Women’s Center of Grand Rapids offers a variety of pregnancy-related services including pregnancy testing, ultrasound, mentoring, home economics classes, parenting classes, a hair salon, baby and maternity clothing, and baby items such as portable cribs, diapers, formula and baby food. The center also offers prenatal and birthing classes, a Bible study in Spanish, GED and ESL classes.
“We are the biggest distributor of diapers in West Michigan for a non-profit,” said Geisel. Clients earn points for attending mentoring sessions or other classes, which they can redeem for maternity or baby items.
Geisel is looking for area churches “to partner with us in the truest sense of the word. Yes, we need financial donations; but we’re hoping churches send volunteers, mention us from the pulpit, and pray for us,” Geisel said. “I guarantee there is someplace to serve that any volunteer will love.”
She describes the days at Alpha Women’s Center of Grand Rapids. Waiting rooms can be full; clients are searching for baby clothes; abortion-minded women come in for ultrasounds but decide to choose life. Geisel herself is busy greeting clients, talking with volunteers, and preparing to speak at women’s groups and churches. She’s also dreaming about what’s next: perhaps a fatherhood initiative, perhaps an exercise class, perhaps a new paint job for a repurposed room or office.
“All this can only come about by the local church being authentic and embracing people where they’re at,” Geisel said. “We model a lot of things here, from cleanliness to a contented spirit. We want people to want to be here.”
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