Life Choices

by | Sep 1, 2008 | Community, Features

Story by Dottie Zimmerman

Russellville, Arkansas – largest town in the Arkansas River Valley. Those of us who live in and around the River Valley love its variety of topography — the lakes, rivers, hills and mountains — and its small-town atmosphere. We enjoy our secure way of life here and the privilege of knowing many of our neighbors.
It’s an ideal place to raise a family, as many of us have already discovered. When you think about it, Russellville is a pretty self-sufficient town. It has all it needs in the way of good jobs, quality grade schools, a growing Arkansas Tech University, up-to-date medical care, businesses, shopping and recreation.
However, there is a local organization that’s seldom heard of, but nevertheless a vital part of our community… the Choices Pregnancy R esource Clinic. It is a haven for women who come to sort out their feelings and fears when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and to find their way to a life-changing decision. 

The clinic is directed by Mrs. Sherry Berger, a warm, Christian lady with a heart for the unborn. It is fully staffed by volunteers from Russellville and the surrounding communities.
The basis of their love is found in the Holy Bible. Jeremiah 29:11 says: “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”.
This hope is clung to by many, and someone who is walking through a difficult period in their life is definitely looking for hope for the future. Choices Pregnancy Resource Clinic offers practical, physical, emotional and spiritual support to young women in a time of crisis.
After moving to the Russellville area in 1990 from Harlingen, Texas, where she worked in a pregnancy testing center, Sherry Berger felt the Lord’s calling. She felt lead to open a center which women could to come to for answers when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
Sherry met her co-founder, Maggie Simmons, at a Right-to-Life meeting, and they shared with each other their conviction that the Lord was calling them to this ministry.
After researching on-line resources and visiting other centers, and after many hours of prayer, the pair opened their organization in 1991 under the name Crisis Pregnancy Care Center. In 2004 the name was changed to Choices Pregnancy Resource Clinic (CPRC), offering limited ultrasounds and medical pregnancy tests. Now located at 311 East 3rd Street in Russellville (two blocks past the library), the Choices Pregnancy Resource Clinic is open Mondays, 2-6 p.m., Tuesdays, 10 a.m. through 2 p.m., and Thursdays, 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., with after- hours appointments by request.
Choices is housed in a large two-story “homey” Victorian-style home which has been remodeled and affords plenty of space. Included are a work room, kitchen, counseling rooms, a classroom, an ultrasound room, lab, and offices. The garage houses a thrift shop open to clients only. There are three paid staff members.

Choice’s Medical Director is Vickie Henderson, M.D., and their Nurse Manager is Becky Smith, R.N. These medical professionals consider it a privilege to be able to work in this capacity and are dedicated to the success of this organization.
Choices is evangelistic in nature, and strives to protect the lives of the unborn from abortion, and to save mothers from the aftermath of abortion. The clinic also reaches out to the lost in our community, seeking opportunities to pray with their clients and lead them to a fuller understanding of the Lord and His plans for their life. Equipping these women to make informed life choices is their aim.
Facing an unplanned pregnancy can be difficult, emotional and seemly overwhelming, but with the aid of friends and people who care, it can be a joyous, exhilarating experience.
Women who visit CPRC receive lay- counseling and faith-based teaching, if they so desire. Choices Pregnancy Resource Clinic offers one-on-one support, abortion education, and medical referrals for prenatal care, all done in Christian love. Naturally, their aim is to help women decide to “Choose Life” rather than abortion. They are not an abortion clinic.

The Clinic administers pregnancy tests and is equipped with an ultrasound machine, with a registered nurse on staff to preside over this amazing “peek” inside a Mother’s womb. This exam confirms the viable status of a pregnancy, and is important whether a woman is considering abortion or continue with the pregnancy. Upon her decision to “Choose Life”, the Clinic offers parenting classes and maternity and baby items, as well as referrals for medical care or adoption referrals.

A mother or father can earn “parenting bucks” to spend in the Clinic’s Thrift Store. They may buy new items for their babies or themselves, such as diapers, car seats or baby clothes, as well as “gently worn” articles of clothing. Parents earn these bucks in several ways, by attending ‘Earn While You Learn’ parenting classes, or by attending church. Choices teaches that education is essential for parents to make informed decisions and to do their best for their children.
A non-profit organization, the clinic is not funded by the government or United Way. The only funding comes from the Christian community, local businesses, organizations, and individuals. It is dedicated to saving babies who might otherwise have been aborted.
The organization is dependent upon the support of the community. Each year Choices offers three fund-raising events to educate the community on their ministry and to recruit additional “partners for life” through their prayers, time and financial donations.

On Saturday, Nov. 8, Choices will host a fall Walk For Life at Pleasant View Park on Hwy. 7 North, Russellville. Approximately 200 walkers, sponsored by friends and family, will walk a one-or-two-mile course. The Walk will be a fun-filled event with bands, activities and prizes.
Choices will host a Spring Banquet with a guest speaker and client testimonies. The evening of reflection, celebration, and visiting will be an opportunity for the community to partner with the lives of their clients.

The Bottles for Babies Campaign distributes baby bottles to area churches and requests that members fill them with their extra change.
One of the clinic’s greatest needs is for a new location, a building on one level with plenty of parking space. More volunteers are needed to help with the day- to-day operation of the Clinic, running the Thrift Store, or to hold hands and listen. Volunteers work one-on-one with clients, walking them through various programs and offering medical and community referrals. No experience is needed; volunteer training is provided. Having a willing heart and a love for others are the only qualifications needed. Some of the volunteers are the most enthusiastic, generous ladies one could ever meet. Mary Frances Townsend is one such volunteer. She serves as a client advocate, volunteering for Choices about three years ago. She says, “Working at the Center is truly a blessing. There are women and teenagers who come to the Center scared, apprehensive, and vulnerable. It is my job to show them God’s unconditional love and to help them make wise choices.”
“Clients come in for different reasons: for pregnancy tests, the Earn While You Learn Program, and some come in seeking abortion education.
“We are not an abortion clinic nor do we make referrals for abortion. Our job is to share factual education on abortion – including the procedures and risks of abortion,” said Mary Frances.
“An ultrasound is offered to establish a viable pregnancy, and when they see their baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound, many of them change their minds.”
Mary Frances says, “The most wonderful part of my job is sharing Christ and telling them who He is.”
Shirley Smith is another volunteer who feels that her experience volunteering with Choices has been a blessing from God. She has been volunteering for four years as a client advocate, and feels strongly that this ministry has changed lives and has saved many lives of the most innocent amongst us.
Time after time she has seen girls considering an abortion change their minds after seeing their baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound machine.
One client, in particular, who was pregnant and had a 4-month-old baby came in and shared with them that her boyfriend wanted her to abort.

“I encouraged her to bring him with her for the ultrasound. Once he saw his tiny baby, his heart was changed, and he is now bonding with their new baby in the womb.”
Another client came in and shared that she already had several children and had an abortion in the past. She said this pregnancy would be a hardship for her family; but, after seeing the heartbeat and seeing her baby move, her heart was changed, too, and she delivered a beautiful baby.

Shirley says that she and the other volunteers have grown spiritually as a result of this ministry.
She says, “My heart has softened and melted as we have prayed that God would lead and guide us as we depend upon Him to minister to our clients and the innocent babies, who are so vulnerable.”
Volunteer Linda Cadle explains: “Why do I continue to volunteer at Choices? Well, after nearly 8 years, I’ve thought about moving on to something else; but I would miss the joy that I get when I see hope rekindled in a young lady’s face! Many times, girls come in for the free pregnancy test to confirm their suspicions.
“When the test is positive, tears begin to fall and she confides that her whole ‘life is over because of one mistake!’… After visiting with her, I begin to see hope reappear in her face that these may be potholes in the road of life, but certainly not brick walls!”
Sherry appreciates all who give generously of their time and talents, who she feels are the “lifeblood” of the organization.
The CPRC Volunteer Board of Directors include: Ormond Peters, John Whorton, Chairman, Bethany Palmer, David Rachel, Michael Lamoureux, Vice Chair; Jackie Rooke, Secretary, and Maggie Simmons, Co-Founder and Board Treasurer.
The Choices Advisory Council includes: Karen Buchanan, R.N.P., Dr. James Carter, Dr. Joe Cloud, Dr. Michael Hendren, and Ruby Graham. For more information, or to volunteer to help, please contact Sherry Berger at (479) 967-2255. Choices’ phones are manned 24 hours a day, or you may email them at



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