"It's the way we operate now. Basically, we just completely changed how we do things here," said Randi Winn McSwain, director of the Women's Resource Center. "Now, we have a store in the back we built filled with baby items and it's called our Baby Store. What used to happen was [clients] would come in and say, 'I need size 6-month clothes for a girl' and we would have them come back in a week and we'd have a box ready for them of baby girl clothes.
"Now, they come in and say, 'I have a need.' We say, 'Well, here's our program and here's how it works. You actually earn the [items], instead of us just giving it out. You earn baby bucks, which is like paper money.' And they earn it a variety of ways -- by attending classes here at the center, [such as] parenting, prenatal, Bible study and post-abortion. If they work, they bring in their check stub and every hour they work they get a buck here. If they're in any type of school -- GED, high school, middle school -- for every class they attend, they get a buck here [and] for keeping WIC appointments and well-baby and prenatal checkup appointments, they get bucks."
Open since Aug. 1, the Baby Store is located in the back of one of the nonprofit's two buildings at 18 Douglas St. in Cartersville. The room, which used to be the facility's porch, cost $5,000 to construct and was made possible in part by a $1,500 grant from the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. The store offers a wide range of baby items, including onesies for one baby buck, 10 diapers for five baby bucks, formula for five baby bucks, a crib for between 50 and 75 baby bucks and car seats, 20 to 30 baby bucks.
"The reason we decided [to offer] this is that we over the past 20 years have seen generation after generation come in with the same problem and the same situation as the previous generation," McSwain said. "Basically we've seen these cycles, these negative generational cycles. And they have been disheartening because you see a 45-year-old great-grandmother come in needing help for her great-grandchild, and she was our client 10 years ago and now she's all of a sudden a great-grandmother because they've had children at the age of 14 or 15 every generation.
"So we just saw that something needed to be in place to try to help educate these mothers on how to be a better parent in the hope that when they parent, their child will break the cycle because they have better parenting. So the goal is to see these children grow up in healthier homes so that they will make better decisions when they enter teenage years and adulthood."
Formed in 1989, the nonprofit also offers parenting classes, pregnancy education, pre- and post-abortion education, maternity and infant needs, life coaching, support groups, Adoption Discovery classes and free pregnancy testing. In 2010, the Women's Resource Center provided 228 pregnancy tests and met 1,200 needs compared to 188 pregnancy tests and 1,022 needs met this year.
"Our mission is to educate the community on the value of the unborn and the value of relationships with God, self and others," McSwain said. "So with that in mind, our purpose is pro-life.
"It's a pro-life mission that we want to see babies born and we want to see them live a quality life. ... There's a wide range of circumstances [that lead people to us]. We have some clients who are married with a job and just have fallen on hard times and then we have some who are 15 years old and single."
For the nonprofit's executive director, Cindy Smith, the Baby Bucks program is a positive tool to strengthen relationships while building confidence among its participants.
"I think it's enhanced the relationship-building goal because we desire to build relationships," Smith said. "And when our girls are coming back or our guys -- we have dads who are doing the program as well -- when they come back for an appointment it builds rapport with their mentor. It encourages them. ... And it's so awesome to see the moms and dads realize they can pick out stuff for their children.
"They may not have monetary money but their baby bucks, they earned. They either worked for or ... it shows that they're taking good care of their child by taking them to well checkups and WIC appointments. It gives them a boost in their mommy-esteem or daddy-esteem and we love to see that. If the parents are at peace and showing confidence, they are better parents."
Further details about the Women's Resource Center and how one can donate to the Baby Store can be obtained by calling 770-382-7224 or visiting www.bartowbabies.org.