Yep, you read that right! Choices Dunsmuir is opening this summer. We’re bringing a limited version of Choices Mt. Shasta’s compassion to care for people with sexuality, pregnancy, and/or parenting needs to Dunsmuir – right inside the premises of our fundraising project, Unexpected Treasures (UT) thrift shop.
While the original vision of UT was primarily to financially help Choices continue caring for people with pregnancy and parenting needs, it also included an earnest desire to have conversations of care for those who came into the shop, perhaps with a cup of coffee or tea, and cookies. It was hoped that in the midst of the receiving, processing, preparation of and sale of donations, people could find a smile, hug and a listening heart. And, this has been happening, for five years – and it is beautiful. Not that it hasn’t been a bumpy road. It has been both beautiful, and (sometimes) brutal, teaching us that in order to grow (for the sake of others), we must sometimes endure uncomfortable ‘growing pains’. But worth it? Yes. Immensely so.
Why Dunsmuir? Siskiyou county is a county in need of noticing, and Dunsmuir is easily accessible to us. With county safety-net services increasingly disappearing, we considered our resources, listened to people who were acquainted with local family needs, and knew we could do something. Having been a Dunsmuir resident for seventeen years added to this awareness, and desire to see hope realized there in mamas, daddies, little ones and families!
“The Spirit is out there ahead of us, inviting us to listen to the creation groaning in our neighborhoods…” Alan Roxburgh, Missional: Joining God In The Neighborhood (2011)
A (Re)Imagined Vision.
Our mission statement flows like this: “Choices exists as a compassionate community providing resources and support to those with pregnancy, parenting or sexuality related concerns.” We understand that to be a mission of integrity, we are called to care way beyond birth – to do so is to holistically nurture and affirm life. So, we listen to the needs around us – of those who come for care, and from our own lives and stories. We pay attention, using all the senses God created within us to engage, and (re)focus, adjusting our lens, to see areas of need more clearly. These processes inform our way forward, and give us fresh vision to make course adjustments. If we fail to take our mission seriously, people lose hope (more), and people suffer (more). We are called to revive hope.
Past, present, future.
The past reminds us that we will always have hurdles – but not barriers. It also shows us that we are always changing. Your clothes, hairstyle, decor and more are likely not the same as they were twenty years ago. If we are to keep pace with the needs of people and communities, we must change as well – we’ve learned this through 2+ decades of care. (And in considering my closet, my kitchen and my current lifestyle.)
We know a few things about the present. We know that safety-net services, those services and resources that people have depended upon to help with food, medical, mental health, and other social services are greatly reduced – or gone. We know that Siskiyou County has the highest rate of child abuse per capita in the state of California. Other signs of felt hopelessness such as substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and suicide are more evident and stressing the fabric of family. These are the lives of our family and friends, and our neighbors both known and unknown.
The future can be discovered as we listen for the heart of God in those around us. Marianne Wilson, who has most recently worked with families-in-need of care, but was laid off, is currently available for another season at Choices – and we couldn’t be more delighted. After listening to Marianne’s heart, we realized we have the capacity to do something. We asked Marianne to join us as our Dunsmuir Care Coordinator.
Jessica Wilden, who has been serving as our Community Relations Coordinator, since January, (but has been with Choices since she was 16!), has listened to the stories and concerns of the UT volunteer community, building a much-needed relational bridge and providing ongoing support during this time of transition.
Beth Wagner, who’s been with Choices for twenty years, is providing training oversight, i.e., ‘how to be a caring and compassionate friend’, for UT volunteers, and incoming (yes, we need you!), Choices advocates, who will meet with pregnant and parenting folks. It’s true – we have a fabulous team of people who are invested in the care of others!
The future also includes an awareness of the needs of mamas, daddies, children, teens, and families – and our ability to take these needs seriously. We choose life for those God loves – and that means, by virtue of our desire to (re)present Christ in our practices, we are compelled to respond. (Consider Matthew 25:31-46.)
Here’s a glimpse of what we’re creating in Dunsmuir:
- a physical and colorful space, designed to be a welcoming place for folks to find a caring conversation and cup of coffee, tea, cookies, etc. A space that communicates, “We were expecting you – come on in!”
Choices volunteer advocates & friends will be available to:
- meet with people privately, to provide limited consultations, relationally supportive care, and practical resources for pregnancy and parenting needs – which, because we also have an ethic of celebration, often includes chocolate.
And so we (re) again and again. (Re), as a prefix, is ‘to do again’, or ‘again and again’. We’re doing it: (re)focus, (re)imagine, (re)present, and (re)vision to (re)introduce hope…again, again and again.
“When we love boldly, it’s going to cause a stir at times. Don’t let the value of discernment, the benefit of being thoughtful, or the rewards of caution dissolve in you the will to speak and act against the grain when it is needed most.” Ian Ebright