Early pregnancy testing is available to any woman in Lehigh Acres. It's a confidential service and teenage girls to young women who may believe they are pregnant may come to the United Way Center, which is housed in the offices of Lehigh Community Services, once a month in Lehigh.
Sarah Rodriguez is an outreach ministry director for the Lifeline Family Center of Cape Coral and she comes to Lehigh every third Wednesday of the month.
"I am here the same day that Lehigh Community Services has its food pantry and I am located in the rear or the building. There is a big sign indicating that we offer these free services to those who may want to know if they are pregnant, or to those who need to talk to someone about how to handle the situation and what to do.
"Regular pregnancy test kits can range from $10 to $20 and sometimes they may not be as accurate as what we use. So we encourage those women and teenagers to come here and talk to us and after a good discussion at the start about options if one is pregnant, an early pregnancy testing is done discreetly and in private at the agency.
"We have women coming in from time to time in the past but it was usually because a woman heard about the service. We need to get the word out that we are here to help them; not to judge them in any way, but offer our services, which includes up to a two-year stay at our two homes in Cape Coral where we can house 12 women and up to 24 children.
"Many of those who stay with us have children, so that is why we also supply a nursery to help with the children. We have up to a two-year stay so we can help them with parenting skills and work skills and hopefully help them to find a job. Our goal is to keep these women off the government handout rolls," Rodriguez said.
She has been offering her services for several years and those who come to talk to her will find a pleasant, caring woman who is glad to listen to problems that come about when a pregnancy was not planned.
She actually become involved many years ago when working at the home for the women in Cape Coral. They have branched out with training and Rodriguez became a "lay counselor," not to be confused with a certified counselor.
"A teenager can walk in on the day I am in Lehigh or she can call beforehand and set up an appointment," Rodriguez said.
A woman who thinks she may be pregnant and wants to talk about it confidentially with someone can contact Rodriguez at 239-242-7238 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
"We are more than happy to set up an appointment," she said.
Rodriguez said that free counseling is given before the early pregnancy test is given.
"The test could come up as positive or negative and we realize the emotional feelings one may have. So we want to prepare them through this counseling discussion," Rodriguez said.
She also pointed out that young girls in their teenage years can come on their own to have the counseling and the early pregnancy testing performed. Or they can come with a parent or they can come with their significant other.
"We offer positive options if they are pregnant. These include parenting skills, adoption assistance and an opportunity to go to our home in the Cape,"?she said. "If a teenager wants us to talk to her parents, then we are glad to do that. We can help break the news to them if their daughter is pregnant and may be afraid to tell them. We will work with them as a family and offer assistance."
"At the home in Cape Coral, we offer such things, too, as learning life skills. We have classes in several subjects that will help them in their life," Rodriguez said.
She also said the program is operated by donations and there are no government grants or state or federal monies accepted.
"And I want to really stress that our conversations and the testing results are completely confidential. That is our word," she said.
There are now 80 so-called out posts in the county and this is but one and located in Lehigh Acres. At the table where Rodriguez is set up, she offers all types of literature that may help women who come to take advantage of their services.
She said young women can also go online to apply for help at: lifelinefamilycenter.org.
"We also offer 'pre and post abortion' counseling, again always confidential," she said. "That includes women who are considering an abortion and those who have gone through an abortion before."
"We are faith based and we are the Healing Hearts Ministry for these women,"?she said. "As I said before, we operate with financial donations from the public and not the government. In fact we are planning our annual benefit banquet this week on the 27th."
"We urge young teenage girls under 18 to come and talk to us. We will not divulge any information to their families. They may however, ask if we would help them talk to their families if the early pregnancy testing is positive," she said. "And girls from 16 to 22 are welcome to stay at the home in Cape Coral and there are no costs."
Rodriguez also noted that men may also come in for counseling with their girlfriend or wife. Counseling is available for anyone in the family.
Rodriguez said a pregnancy can be detected anywhere from four to six weeks after conception.
"Our early pregnancy testing is highly regarded as being accurate," she said. "That may not be the case with the more inexpensive testing kits."
Volunteers are always needed in the nursery, to help with mailings and outreach.
"We can't operate without volunteers and we can always use more at the center in Cape Coral.
"Tell the young women of Lehigh again that I am here on the third Wednesday of each month. They can walk in or call to make an appointment. We're at Lehigh Community Services on Plaza Drive, which is off Homestead Rd.," she said.
There is also a 24/7 crisis pregnancy hotline at the Lifeline Family Center Resource Center.