by Diana Bulls
In just a few short weeks, the doors of an unassuming house in Dinuba will open to an innovative program that hopes to create healthy lives in partnership with God.
The Dawnings Pregnancy Resource Center is described as a different type of agency—one that deals with unexpected pregnancy in a unique way. Dawnings is a “peer counseling agency” not a medical facility. It does not diagnose, but rather provides information. Both women and men who are facing an unexpected pregnancy can receive free and confidential counseling services, medical services, long-term mentoring, and parenting education. Dawnings provides a non-judgmental atmosphere that allows each individual to make educated and thoughtful decisions regarding their pregnancy. Men are encouraged to deal with their responsibilities as fathers. For many girls who feel alone and pressured, Dawnings is truly a prayer come true.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, Tulare and Kings Counties have the highest teen birth rates in the State, with Tulare having the second highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. Eighteen percent of white teens live below the poverty line and their birth rate is 50 per 1,000; 40% of Hispanic teens live below the poverty line and their birth rate is over 100 per 1,000 women.
The U.S. Census Bureau states that alongside the high rate of teen pregnancy in Tulare County, this area has the fifth highest percentage of poverty and the third-highest percentage of people with less than a high school diploma in the country. Within California, Tulare County has the highest percentage of poverty, unemployment, and lack of education. A frightening statistic is that close to two-thirds of the population under 18 in this county live below 200 percent of poverty, and this is the highest rate in the state. There is a lack of access to proper health care services due to the absence of health insurance, low socio-economic status, and limited resources in many of the migrant farm-worker families. Many experts say extreme poverty is the root of teen pregnancy (Julie Tanady, Pregnancy Guides Online).
All of these statistics indicate a real need for a crisis pregnancy resource center in Dinuba, and who better to head it up than founder and director Cheryl Nicolay. Cheryl has been through it all first hand—as she says, her life is an open book. At age 17 she found out she was pregnant. Her child was born prematurely on Christmas in 1969 and died of respiratory distress after 48 hours. At age 18, Cheryl found herself married to the wrong man, the mother of a dead child and in a “dark place.” Life didn’t get any better for quite a while. Later pregnancies were just as difficult and included one abortion. Out of eight pregnancies, Cheryl only has three living children. She is the first to admit she was in a “terrible personal situation,” alone, scared and with no one to turn to. She feels if her story can help one teen mom then she has been truly blessed.
When you talk with Cheryl, you are struck by her enthusiasm, her joy of life, and her love of God. It’s like being folded up in a great big hug, and you could tell this woman anything and know that no matter what, you would be totally accepted and loved. What a role model for young women! Cheryl and her husband Bill are transplants from the corporate world in New York. They have been in ministry for ten years, the last seven in Dinuba where, as Cheryl says, “God is using my miseries to become my ministries.”
Dawnings Pregnancy Resource Center will offer clients free pregnancy tests, miscarriage or post-abortion support, abstinence education, parenting classes, a listening ear, and the unconditional love of God in a warm and caring atmosphere. Dawnings does not give advice, but instead offers information that will help inform clients of all the options they have regarding pregnancy: fetal development, parenting, adoption and abortion. Clients are referred to local Health Centers to establish eligibility for medical care in order to start prenatal care as soon as possible. Those clients who are not pregnant are offered abstinence and sexually transmitted disease information and Life Skills classes. As clients progress through the programs, they can earn “Victory Points” to use in the Grace Center Resource Store where they can buy things for their baby or themselves.
Currently Dawnings is operating out of a temporary location, New Beginnings Christian Center, 790 S. First Avenue in Dinuba. Cheryl has been able to rent a house from the Dinuba School District for $2/year and renovations will hopefully be completed by the first of October. In the meantime, she is looking for businesses or individuals to partner with them on a monthly basis to cover the cost of utilities, insurance and supplies. Dawnings will have a booth at the Dinuba Raisin Festival this weekend where the public can take part in the $1 to $250 Club. There will be envelopes available with denominations printed on them of $1 up to $250. People will be encouraged to take one and fill it—if you can’t fill one by yourself, ask friends or family to go in with you.
Dawnings depends on volunteers and there are many opportunities for services, and training is provided. Some opportunities include: client advocate, speakers team, post abortion group leaders, parenting class mentor, handyman or woman, janitor, receptionist. There is also a wish list for items needed to complete the house and office, as well as gently used baby toys, furniture, strollers, etc. For a complete list of things that are needed, or ways you can help, contact Cheryl Nicolay at 559-978-1730.
If you know someone who is in need of the services Dawnings provides, please contact Cheryl at the number above or visit Dawnings website.
If you look at the Dawnings logo, you see a man, woman and child. This reflects their goals, to offer help and hope to women and men facing unplanned pregnancies, through education, compassion and resources for the sake of their unborn child, and to provide opportunities for healing and restoration in order to become one of God’s healthy families.