Church hopes to reduce teen pregnancy rate - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Church hopes to reduce teen pregnancy rate

October 16, 2006

Albany-- Slowly but surely, Georgia's teen pregnancy has declined in recent years. Still, it remains a growing concern in the Southwest Georgia Health District. The teen pregnancy rate here has increased for the past few years. Two women hope to change that through faith.

From a small church in East Albany, two women want to open the door to some big changes in the city.

"It's part of the vision of the church," says Pastor Betty Jackson.

It's a vision that began long ago for Pastor Betty Jackson of First Apostolic and it's built on the words of the Bible.

"The organization is called Mercy Without Judgement," says Jackson.

Mercy Without Judgement will be a center for teenage mothers in Albany, a shelter that will give them a warm bed along with training on how to be good mothers. 

The goal is to help them find their way after an early life-changing moment.

"The thing is about breaking the cycle of babies having babies," says Jackson. But breaking the cycle and beginning that change isn't cheap.  It will cost thousands of dollars.  They were recently granted $7,000 from Morehouse College to help with the project.  Evangelist Lillie Thomas says it's a start.

"All we need is a place, all we need is a big building," says Thomas. Still, the foundation has already started here at the church.

"We have a slogan here at our church. People are our business," says Thomas. These women say it's the church that needs to be an answer.

"It's time for us to come along and say even though you're in a crisis you can still make it. You can still achieve your goals," says Jackson. And they don't want the door to close on the opportunity to tell them.

Here's a closer look at the teen pregnancy rate in our area. The numbers may surprise you. In 2004, there were nearly 11-hundred teen pregnancies in the 14-county Southwest Health District. There were 320 teen pregnancies in Dougherty County, a pregnancy rate of 80.5.

That means that out of every 1,000 births in the county, about 80 were teenage moms. That's higher than the state's rate of 69.5. Calhoun County has the state's second highest rate. 28 teenagers there had babies in 2004. That translates to a rate of 153.            

Pastor Jackson hopes to have the teen pregnancy center open by next year. It will start out by helping a little more than 20 women, ages 10 to 28. To help out with donations or by volunteering, contact Pastor Betty Jackson at 229-395-7042 or Evangelist Lillie Thomas at 229-869-1549. 

You can also contribute to a fund set up at Albany Federal Bank under Mercy Without Judgement.

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