Saturday July 27, 2013

ELIZABETH CONKEY

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- In March, Care Net Pregnancy Center in Bennington, formerly located on Silver Street, moved to its new location at 345 Elm St.

The center offers free pregnancy tests; information on abortion, abortion alternatives, and STDs; pre-natal and parenting classes; material assistance for parents and children, referrals to local social service agencies; and post abortion support.

The staff consists of support and counseling staff as well as nurses who perform pregnancy tests and ultrasounds in the on-site exam rooms.

Noreen Gardner, Care Net’s executive director, who has been involved with the organization since 1998, says the center is an excellent resource for women of all ages within the community.

"We try to connect the dots for our patients depending on their various needs," said Gardner. "It’s all very personal because each individual we see has different needs than the next." Gardner is eager to inform the community of the center and the services it offers for no cost.

"A lot of people don’t know we are here and don’t know what we do," she said.

Today through Wednesday, women in the community who are pregnant, or who think they may be pregnant, are invited to participate in a free ultrasound program.

Roxanne Ertel of Forget Me Not Ultrasound in Alaska is visiting the facility to train local nurses in limited OB-GYN ultrasound technology. In addition to the technical training, Forget Me Not Ultrasound seeks to "establish a spiritual objective and commitment from each nurse," according to its website.

"We’re here for five days looking for ultrasound models," said Ertel. "We’re excited to see how the community is going to respond."

According to Ertel, the four nurses participating in the training program will receive contact hours and women who are pregnant or believe they might be pregnant can receive a free ultrasound. "Today, pregnancy tests are positive at three weeks," she said. "With an early pregnancy diagnosis, women can figure out what steps they will take next and whether or not they will carry the pregnancy to term."

Gardner says that women of all ages are welcome to visit the center and promises a safe, welcoming, respectful, and non-judgmental environment.

"They can feel good about the care and information they receive here," she said.

Care Net also connects women and couples with other social service agencies within the community, including the Sunrise Family Resource Center and the Women, Infants and Children program.

"In a way, we act as a liaison for other public service agencies in the community," she said.

Along with free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, the center will also offer free STD testing to women in the near future.

Care Net will host an open house on Aug, 10 from 1 to 3 p.m. at its new location, 345 Elm St. They will be offering tours of their facility as well as information regarding their services.

To learn more about Care Net or to schedule an ultrasound appointment, call 802-442-2002.

Contact Elizabeth Conkey at econkey@benningtonbanner.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethconkey.