Not every expectant mother dedicates an entire closet to shelves of diapers and containers of clothes that make the room overflow with countless maternal goods.
Next Step Pregnancy Services in Lynnwood is a non-religious, non-profit medical clinic that works with the goal of accepting and supporting pregnant women and guiding them through the process of parenthood.
Housed in a cozy complex along Highway 99, a wondrous closet sits behind the front desk of the pregnancy support agency. Inside rests a hoard of diapers, baby wipes, baby formula and locally made blankets, which all support about 300 people a month. Out for display are maternity clothes and youth clothing from sizes newborn to 6, which are rotated out every season.
Every month, the agency gives away about 5,000 diapers. They spend a budgeted amount of money on diapers monthly in addition to accepting donations, which mainly come from the Lynnwood Food Bank and supply drives. Though they don’t regularly carry feminine products, they are on the shelf when Next Step receives them from the food bank.
The community plays a large role in collecting pregnancy supplies. Local churches and senior centers help make blankets to donate. Next Step also engages the community in “baby bottle campaigns” by having organizations such as churches raise money by filling baby bottles with change.
Next to the closet is a room reserved for options counseling and pregnancy tests, which are usually conducted two to three times a day. Across from it is a room for ultrasounds, which requires appointments to be used. Next Step recently received a new machine, courtesy of 4 UltraSound and the Knights of Columbus.
Staff members Kathy Dizard and Nancy Tribble hope to add services to Next Step, such as classes on parenting and childbirth. The duo, along with nurse Lisa Tollenar and volunteers, make up the work force of Next Step.
“We’re dedicated to helping women in need, those facing unplanned pregnancies,” Dizard said. “It’s definitely pro-woman here. I think it’s pro-family here.”
Dizard describes the supplies closet as having “everything baby except for cribs and car seats,” but they never know what they might get in donations. Next Step works closely with other local organizations, such as Clothes for Kids and Step by Step, which refer customers to one another to help meet their needs.
Anyone can ask for baby goods and the process to do so is simple with “no strings attached,” Dizard said.
Clients follow a fairly simple process to be tested for pregnancy at Next Step, which also offers its free services to teenagers. They fill out paperwork, show their ID and are taken to perform the test. However, if the client receives a positive test, they would still need a doctor to officially verify the pregnancy.
“[Pregnant women] have a major decision to make and that would be either to parent, to abort or to go to the adoption route,” Dizard said.
However, Next Step does not offer baby or maternity materials until women have expressed tthey are ready to advance onward with the pregnancy process.
Next Step only refers for adoptions and does not arrange them for their clients. However, Tribble and Dizard have taken classes to learn the language around adoption and the process involved in undergoing the process.
“When we talk about [adoption] we can kind of give them an idea of ‘hey, you know if you go in and talk to someone about adoption it’s nothing that’s written in stone, you’re just checking out your options,’” Tribble said.
Additionally, Next Step does not perform nor refer for abortions as they are a “life-affirming” agency, according to Dizard. They will attempt to provide the best information about abortion as they can for their clients.
Tribble emphasizes not pressuring clients to make certain decisions. Their main mission is to inform women of their options regarding pregnancy and to offer a helping hand if they’re in need of a shoulder to lean on.
“The people who started this and the people who work here, the mission is really to just love people where they’re at. And sort of be there and be sort of a community when somebody doesn’t have a community,” Tribble said. “[We] just let them know there’s somebody out there who cares.”
Over time, Dizard has noticed some women have been returning Next Step clients due to the services they offer and a change in how they want to approach their next pregnancy.
“We have had more than a few girls that say they’re going have an abortion but yet want to have an ultrasound because they want have pictures of the baby and we have had a lot of girls who have had an abortion but then come back when they’re ready again to have a baby and happy to be a mother and they say it was because of the way they were treated when they were here the first time,” Dizard said.
Grandparents occasionally come into Next Step in need of supplies for their grandchildren. Tribble recalled a grandmother who fostered seven kids whose parents did drugs. The children subsequently had to leave their home with nothing because their parents had made drugs in their home. Next Step provided her with a gift card, cribs and other supplies she needed to support the kids.
Volunteers organize clothing and create outfits from them, perform database entry, answer the phone and greet people. They also can lead options counseling. People must be at least 18 years old to volunteer. Dizard joked about needing younger volunteers because she and Tribble are seen as “grandma figures.”
“It’s kind of nice to [volunteer] because it offers them a place where they really can give back and help people,” Tribble said. “It’s nice to, number one, be able to have someone experience being here and know what it’s like and everything and then also when you see someone a little closer to your own age… It adds a different dimension.”
Tribble reminisced about a time where she greeted a woman as she usually does, but the woman immediately broke into tears and thanked Tribble for smiling at her.
Next Step prides itself on helping women learn about the paths they can take with their pregnancy and being friendly to every client by providing all the information and resources they need to move forward.
“It’s more than a job. It’s not even really a job, it’s a passion to work here. It’s a way of life,” Dizard said.
Next Step is currently looking for a bigger location in order to house more services and classes. Their only location is at 17602 Highway 99, Suite 170 in Lynnwood and is open on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Thursday from noon to 6 p.m.
–By Annika Prom