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First Choice celebrates 25th anniversary

Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 at 8:05 am


A drone shot of people standing in the shape of 25 and wearing white to commemorate the center’s anniversary. (Submitted photo)

First Choice Pregnancy Counseling Center is celebrating its 25th anniversary all year long.

And there are two projects the nonprofit is pursuing this year. One is the creation of a YouTube channel which will feature 25 videos about First Choice that will be released through the course of 2024. The second is the construction of the “Unborn Memorial,” which will be completed at the end of the year.

Former Director Angela Rasnick said the idea for the YouTube channel came from wanting to make the community aware of all the services they offer as well as to show where the center is now in terms of growth and achievement.

“And give them an opportunity, too, to see into the center through the eyes of the clients,” said Rasnick.

With the memorial, families will be able to place name plaques as well as have a quiet place to meditate and reflect on lives lost.

“This is going to be a place where families can memorialize babies that either died from miscarriage or from abortion,” said Rasnick.

The memorial will be located behind Living Stones Community Church and will have room for expansion. It will also feature a statue sculpted by Martin Hudacek.

Rasnick said the idea for this memorial was brought up by a member of the church. But Rasnick said it was Pam Cooper, First Choice’s founding member, who also had a vision to create a place where babies could be remembered.

“She [Pam Cooper] began to explain it to me, and I picked up the first drawings of it from the architect and she said, ‘That’s it, exactly. That’s exactly what I had dreamed of,’” Rasnick retold, referring to a conversation she had last fall with Cooper. “I think the Lord planted that idea with her years and years ago.”

Cooper passed away Dec. 15, 2023 — less than a month before First Choice turned 25. But her legacy will be remembered this year.

“Her entire life, she was an overcomer,” said Rasnick.

Despite a chronic illness that required three organ transplants over the course of her 70 years of life, Cooper believed she had a purpose.

That purpose was revealed to her in the fall of 1997 when she pursued the call to establish a crisis pregnancy center in Shelbyville.

And she did. On Jan. 11, 1999, First Choice Pregnancy Counseling Center officially opened its doors for the first time. Then, they were located across from Central Office. They moved into their current location, 1102 Madison St., in 2009.

Before becoming director, Rasnick worked as a volunteer at First Choice. “In ’99, we had a card table, a little box of clothing, a few little baby things we could give to people,” she said. “So it started with nothing.”

But quickly, they found the need—and the support—to grow. Bedford County has no OBGYN, so First Choice often finds itself filling in that gap for pre- and post- natal care.

“We have a population that does not have good, regular care during their pregnancies,” said Rasnick. “It’s our greatest wish, and probably the thing I champion the hardest, is we need an OBGYN in Bedford County.”

Rasnick said often when their clients walk through the door, they don’t know what they’re going to do with the baby.

“We present truthful information about parenting, about choosing someone else to parent through adoption, and about abortion. We give information that is truthful about all three and ultimately it’s their decision,” said Rasnick. First Choice makes it clear they do not advocate abortion.

Rasnick officially stepped down from her role as Director in January but will still be serving as a volunteer. In her place will be Morgan Bargers, who has served at First Choice as a volunteer client advocate for two years.

Former Director Angela Rasnick, left, holds up a concept drawing of First Choice’s upcoming construction project with new Director Morgan Bargers, right. (Photo by Zoe Watkins)

It a different route from her original job as the owner of Mouth of the South Bakery, which she ran for 10 years.

“I was just really convicted of how I was spending my time and that I need to do something for someone else,” said Bargers. After running into Rasnick at North Main Market Place where she sold her baked goods, she began volunteering.

“It was exactly what I needed. It was a divine appointment. I left here every Thursday afternoon just high on life and filled to the brim,” Bargers said.

“It really is just about building relationships with the clients. All of them just appreciate, or feel appreciated and loved, that someone is counting on them to be there every week…just having someone check in on them is the biggest deal for a lot of our clients.”

Their clients are varied and come from all different backgrounds. Bargers said their age range has bumped up to include women in their late-twenties and early-thirties.

“And then we have some who are teenagers, some who are homeless, single moms, lower-income,” she said. “Of course, we have some clients who are married that have fantastic jobs and a couple of kids, they just appreciate meeting with someone here.”  Rasnick added that the youngest pregnant girl they’ve had was in fifth grade.

Bargers said 55% of their clients are Spanish-speakers, so First Choice has added a translator and several Spanish-speaking volunteers.

“We’ve also increased our fatherhood program. And we’re seeing more dads because we’re offering that now,” said Rasnick.

Joanne Theis, a First Choice volunteer of 25 years, helps fellow volunteer Judy Brewer fold donated baby clothes. (Photo by Zoe Watkins)

They also offer free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and the Baby Boutique, which features baby clothes, strollers, and diapers. The center’s education classes, which are tailored to the client’s needs, give them the opportunity to earn credit to purchase items at no charge.

“That’s a big stresser for most of our clients—how to pay for all a baby’s need. Many times babies go without the necessities,” said Rasnick. “So, they can get everything they need at no charge. And the big benefit is the education they’re getting, which empowers them to be better parents for those children.”

“Fear is the driving factor, so we hope to alleviate some of that for them,” said Bargers.

First Choice will be hosting their 25th annual Fish Fry on Saturday, May 11, at Walnut Ridge Farm, 1198 Whiteside Hill Rd., in Wartrace, beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the center at 931-680-0066. The cost is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. They are currently asking for donations for the silent and live auctions.

Last year they had 1,300 people attend and they’re hoping for that or more.

This year’s event will be in memory of Pam Cooper.