FirstLook announces that the doors to its new, state-of-the-art sexual health and pregnancy center are now open. The new facility greatly expands the nonprofit’s ability to provide area residents with high-quality, confidential, accessible sexual health care, all free of charge.
Since 1995, FirstLook has served more than 40,000 residents – many facing unplanned pregnancies – from Ellis County and surrounding areas. After six years of strategic planning, FirstLook can now double its number of available appointments thanks to more land, more space, and more resources, according to Donna Young, CEO.
“Our services are unique in Ellis County in that they are without cost, regardless of income,” Young said. “We are staffed with licensed registered nurses who are practicing within their scope of practice under the direction and supervision of licensed physicians. We support our patients with a full team of loving and caring individuals. Trained men and women offer a holistic approach to care, including medical, educational, emotional, and spiritual support, care management, and material assistance.”
Young said her overall vision is to reach more men and women with expanded services in a center designed to meet community needs for the long-term future.
“We want this beautiful, comfortable, welcoming facility to convey our core message that every life, every person, is valuable and made in the image of God,” she said.
The new, 11,000-square-foot facility sits on two acres of land donated by The Avenue Church in Waxahachie. The clinic features an expansive front porch and encompasses four consultation rooms, four exam rooms (two with ultrasound capabilities), meeting space, a fully-equipped demonstration kitchen, a classroom, a chapel, a baby boutique, administrative offices, and ample parking space.
“Our community, like every other community, faces a considerable situation where unwanted pregnancies and unhealthy sexual health decisions are rampant,” said Vernon L. Witherspoon, board president. “Giving people direct and accurate information allows for a better and more informed decision, which obviously is critical when there is a life on the line.”
While modern, the facility is designed to feel comfortable like home and connects to the past through its use of design features and furnishings from eras gone by.
As an example, the wall adorning the kitchen was made from pink bricks salvaged from the oldest home in Ellis County before it was destroyed. The tile backsplash of the coffee bar mixes new tiles with detailed, vintage tiles from the 1930s, each individually signed by the artist. A deacon’s bench from Reagor Springs Church and dressers from the 1800s add significance to the decor and provide a welcoming feel. Even the rooms that don’t feature antiques offer an inviting style with names like “The Man Cave,” “Serenity Room,” and “Happy Days.”
“I’m excited about this new building,” said Buddy Rigotti, client coordinator. “The future is wide open for FirstLook. We have a big opportunity here in Ellis County and surrounding areas to reach folks who find themselves in an uncertain pregnancy situation.”
Staffed by 14 employees, including three nurses and two doctors, as well as 15 volunteers, FirstLook’s comprehensive array of services includes pregnancy testing, diagnostic ultrasound up to 28 weeks, STI testing and treatment, counseling, mentoring, doula support, healing after abortion, and other.
Additionally, FirstLook offers a wide range of labor and delivery, prenatal, parenting, life skills, Bible study, and adult and infant CPR classes – many of which are offered virtually due to the pandemic situation.
“God has called us at FirstLook for such a time as this, to offer life-affirming alternatives to the tragedy of abortion, while respecting a woman’s decision without ridicule or rejection,” said Young. “We are here in our community to serve, to make a difference one person at a time, one life at a time, one baby at a time, one dad, one mom, one family.”
FirstLook’s data indicates an increasing need for services:
• In 2020, the clinic had 2,221 visits, a 60% increase over the 1,391 visits in 2019.
• Of the visits in 2020, 413 pregnancy tests were administered, 347 ultrasound images were shown, and 237 clients were tested for STIs.
• Roughly 60% of FirstLook clients range between 20 and 30 years of age, while another 20% are over the age of 30.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of the present, but also the future,” said Melinda Tedesco, client coordinator. “We see clients from so many different situations, and I feel our center can fill a void. We can fill voids for support, education, medical support, and a listening ear. I feel we have a great opportunity to serve in that respect.”
Ellis County is projected to grow by 150% to nearly 500,000 in 2050, according to data from the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the county’s department of development. The county’s health care needs are also anticipated to dramatically increase during that time.
“FirstLook is a place of hope and peace,” Ellis County Judge Todd Little said. “Patients with an unplanned pregnancy can go to FirstLook for counseling and guidance as they discuss their choices. The Ellis County Commissioners Court is proud to help fund this initiative to improve access to women’s health, and we hope they will choose life.”