There are so many factors that parents must think about when they find themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy, including things like housing, employment, and sometimes even transportation. Pregnancy resource centers can help meet some of these needs, but there’s only so much they can do. That is why one pregnancy center in central North Carolina has decided to take their work a step further and open up a new coffee shop.
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Tonya Baker Nelson, Founder and CEO of Hand of Hope Pregnancy Centers, to discuss the new coffee shop she is opening this spring and the impact that it will have.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. As Christians, many of us pray and hurt for the men, women, and children whose lives are irreversibly altered by abortion. But while praying is both important and effective, we should also be putting our hands and feet toward a solution to what really is a defining issue for our generation. Our guest this week, no doubt, will have a lot of ideas on how you might do that. But we always want to be open to new and creative ways that we can support women who often feel they have no other choice except abortion. Tonya Baker Nelson is President of /hand of Hope Pregnancy Centers, which has several locations between Raleigh and Fayetteville, and is preparing to launch Restored Mission Coffee Shop and Boutique. Tonya Baker Nelson, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
TONYA BAKER NELSON: Thank you, Traci, thank you for having me.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right, well, talk about your new endeavor. And why are you undertaking what sounds like a huge project on top of everything else you’re doing?
TONYA BAKER NELSON: It is a huge project. But the mission behind restored mission shop is to truly empower parents to choose life. So what we will do is our coffee shop and gift boutique will employ the clients of Hand of Hope, those women and men that we get to serve in our centers and truly say, “Hey, if you need a job, if you need marketable skills, if you need to grow your resume, if you’re laid off, because your employer finds out you’re pregnant, if your hours are cut short because your employer finds out you’re pregnant, these are all very real things that happen to women day in and day out. It is against the law to do that to a pregnant woman. But it does still happen often. And I have personally experienced that myself as well. Our clients experience that on multiple levels, and multiple women experience that team.
So the vision behind it is to truly empower parents to choose life while giving them a job that is Christ-centered and teaches them how to work, especially in an age where a lot of people don’t really know how to work, but how to work, and then just incorporate those Christian ethics into the workplace. And then also providing a paycheck for them. You know, single moms, a lot of times, will have a full-time job and then maybe a couple of part-time jobs. That’s what I did when I was a single mom; I’ve worked a full-time job and had two part-time jobs on the side just to make rent or to pay my light bill. So I know that that’s a very needed resource that we can provide to our clients while also funding the overall goals of the ministry. So we are super excited about it.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So talk a little more about how that’s going to happen.
TONYA BAKER NELSON: I was telling my coffee distributor the other day, we actually have a taste test at the end of this week for our very own coffee signature blend. So I just said, “Hey, I know what good coffee tastes like. And outside of that, you’re gonna have to teach me.” And I kind of teased with my coffee equipment guy, “Hey, it’s all Greek to me, I don’t understand.” But we do have some great people behind us that will run the coffee shop.
There’s a barista, and actually, her story is a beautiful one because she herself had an unplanned pregnancy in college. And she ended up running at the time, managing that and time, and then opened her own coffee shop out on the west coast to put herself through college and to support her and her little baby when she chose life. So it’s it’s amazing how coffee kind of connects us through just a “Yes.” Okay, Lord, what are you doing? What will you let us do? How do we need to be creative about moving forward and growing our roots, so quite a bit deeper into the ministry that we’re already doing. And so that was the idea behind the coffee shop was just to be able to not only employ our clients, but also to grow our budget so that we could offer more childcare scholarships, and then offer a housing allowance if we’re able to, you know, grow our income at the coffee shop.
So those are some pretty big dreams that we’re dreaming and hoping that the revenue from the coffee shop, it allows us to meet those needs for the clients that we serve in our pregnancy centers. So, our clients from each pregnancy center, the goal is to have a Restored Mission Shoppe in every market that our centers are located. So we’re starting off in Fuquay first, that’s where the first one is located. And then we’ll go to Raleigh, and then we’ll go to Fayetteville. So that’s, that’s the goal behind it. So we’ll see how long it takes us to get there.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Wow, that is very ambitious. Talk about the jobs training. Are you bringing in somebody to do that? How extensive do you think that’s going to be?
TONYA BAKER NELSON: So the job training, the mentorship, will happen inside Restored Mission Shoppe as well. So we will have co-managers that have experience and will also teach, because what I’ve learned, also too, is coffee is just not be all end all. There’s an art to coffee making. A good barista is going to know her coffee blends, and this certain machine works this way. So I’ve learned a lot. I’m the guinea pig taste tester. So that’s been fun, but our baristas, so we’ll have professionals, coffee professionals, and then retail professionals who will come into the coffee shop, and we’ll teach our clients this marketable trade. So there’s a lot that goes on, besides just making a cup of coffee, you’ve got to do inventory, and then you have to do sales, and then you got to turn in your taxes from your sales.
So those type of back-end things, once we develop our team, then we’ll be able to further develop that team to see where they fit best in those general areas. And then they will have a mentor that teaches them, we have an accountant that’s going to teach them, “Hey, this is how you do the taxes.” So there still would be plenty of mentorship behind the back end of running the coffee shop for our clients. So we’re excited about that. And then as well, some of our clients have their own personal, like embroidery, they can do the smocking for the little baby clothes. So we’re going to carry some of those lines, high-end products that are made by our clients.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay, and that’s in that boutique that’s going to be attached to the coffee shop, right? Yeah,
TONYA BAKER NELSON: Yep. Coffee and gifts, and a lot of books.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So you’ve mentioned also growing your budget, in addition to the things that you talked about, that will certainly help the client; it sounds like this is going to help you all to fund the good work that you’re doing even in your centers.
TONYA BAKER NELSON: Right. So a couple of years ago, we just decided once we opened our third location in Fayetteville across from Planned Parenthood there, we just decided, okay, these are the three venues we want to be in, because that’s where the high abortion rates are happening that are, you know, logistically close together. So we wanted to have a presence there. And we have seen for a number of years, some very, very real needs that everybody experiences, but that a pregnant woman, her awareness is a bit more heightened to, and that would be housing.
When we work with intimate partner violence, that happens often, and so we’re constantly having to make plans of how does she get out. And we worked with a number of you know, other organizations that do a great job with that. But sometimes, immediate housing is a huge need. And we do fulfill that creatively a couple different ways. But what we would like to do too, is, instead of just emergency housing, emergency immediate housing, we would like to be able to say, hey, we have this tiny home that you can stay in rent-free for the next three months. Or, you know, buy a home and be able to rent it out very, very cheaply for that particular group of people that housing is a big, big checkbox for them in order to choose life.
So housing has just been, I think everybody knows how the housing market, even rent, has just grown astronomically over the last three years. And it’s becoming a real problem for us. And sometimes when that rent just seems insurmountable, especially if she’s in, you know, a domestic violence situation, then jumping that one more hurdle of finding affordable housing so that she can raise her baby in a safe environment, it’s just too big for her to clear sometimes. So we would like to be able to take our Mission Shoppe funds from the coffee and gift shop and be able to buy a tiny home and provide it, you know, for very affordable rent or rent-free.
And then, as well, increase our, we already offer childcare scholarships, but we would like to be able to increase our childcare scholarships for that at-risk mom to say, “Hey, you know, when you choose life, and you’ve done this, then you can apply for this childcare scholarship. And we will pay your childcare for your newborn for the next year.” So we really want to be able to just funnel those funds right back into the ministry so that our roots go quite a bit deeper into serving these women and these men.
And then lastly, transportation is an issue sometimes, not always. It seems to be a little bit more of an issue in Fayetteville then it does in the other markets, but what we would like to do is we would like to buy a minivan and have our own Uber service, so to speak. And that would require insurance and then an employee to provide transportation on our Hand of Hope-owned vehicle.
But those are just some of the dreams that we’re kind of filling out and seeing if this is going to be a fit. The transportation seems to be a bigger need, like I said, in Fayetteville. But also what we’re seeing, too, is we’re seeing more and more 14-15 year olds that think they might possibly pregnant, so they can’t even drive, they can’t get here, you know. So that’s, it’s just kind of opened up the door for a little bit more opportunity for us to reach her first before she reaches out to an abortion clinic that is actively pursuing her that will make her make a permanent decision on a very temporary situation. So that’s, those are our, some of our dreams that we’d like to pour back into the ministry from the resources that the coffee shops can generate.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: For those of us who aren’t seeing these women every day and what they’re confronting, I think it’s easy to sit back and go, Well, they’re just choosing abortion because it’s the easy way out. You know, I think it’s easy to stand back and throw stones. But what I’m hearing from you is that there are a lot of reasons, maybe predominantly reasons, that have to do with economics, with housing, with just very practical and material things. Is that mostly what you see?
TONYA BAKER NELSON: In my experience, no woman truly wants to choose abortion. That is personally my experience. The thousands of women that I have spoken to, and then, you know, now our staff has grown. We have three locations. I think collectively, we would say that very rarely do we meet a woman who we feel truly wants to have an abortion. In our experience, it really is, she just feels so trapped and so scared she can’t see her way out of the situation she’s in, because all these other external factors are like pounding in on her to make her feel like abortion is her only choice.
Well, you and I know, being believers, you and I know that God is not the author of confusion and doubt. So, of course, Satan is going to love to like throw these things at her, these fiery darts that are gonna confuse her thoughts. And the pregnancy is the only thing that she can somewhat control at that point in time. But it’s all these other external factors that are, those situations and scenarios are going to change. But people are permanent. Even if she does choose an abortion, that person is still a permanent person for all of time, whether or not she gets to meet that little baby.
So yes, there are a lot of factors that go into a woman choosing abortion. And just again, in our experience, we don’t see that she truly wants an abortion. Yes, it’s easy. It’s easy because it’s legal. It’s quick, but the suffering that women experience after that quick and easy decision, you know, changes her for a lifetime. And him too, and him too. So it’s just not our experience that they want to have an abortion. They feel pressure from outside to make that decision. And then again, if they’re going into the abortion clinic, of course, the abortion clinic is only offering them one choice.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: We are about out of time. What an enlightening and refreshing conversation. Thank you so much for your perspective on this very important issue. For those of us who are Christians, I think we have a responsibility to be involved in some way. So if people want to connect with you, or at least follow you to maybe get some ideas on how they can get involved, how would they go about doing that?
TONYA BAKER NELSON: We’re on Facebook, Facebook is where most of our people find us. So it’s Hand of Hope Pregnancy Center, Pregnancy Resource Center, actually, on Facebook, and we’re on Instagram. It’s linked there too. And then our website is HandofHope.net
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right, Tonya Baker Nelson, President of Hand of Hope Pregnancy Centers. Thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.
TONYA BAKER NELSON: Thank you, Traci. I appreciate it.
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