Cherokee McClintick considers the Island Pregnancy Centre (IPC) her second family.
Back in 2018, she was expecting her first child at 20 years old. It was clear she would be raising the child as a single mother, so she started to prepare by turning toward her own mother for support.
But around the same time, her mother died.
"She was my main support," McClintick said. "When you lose a parent, honestly you lose a piece of you."
This piece suddenly missing from McClintick's life put her in a dark place. She became worried about how she was going to care for her child, she said.
"It's very easy for a mom to feel like they're alone."
She decided to turn toward the IPC in Charlottetown, which ended up helping her throughout her process. This fall, it officially opened a second location in Summerside to support the western end of P.E.I. as well, said its executive director.
Tammy MacKinnon began her position this summer but has known and supported McClintick since she became a client. The IPC secured its Summerside building around the same time, and after two years of renovation it already has about 30 regular clients, she said.
One of the IPC's first steps with clients is to outline P.E.I.'s three available options for moving forward with unexpected pregnancies – parenting, adoption and abortion. As a faith-based organization, MacKinnon noted the service does provide all sides of the three options and is inclusive and non-judgmental toward clients from all walks of life.
"Everyone is treated with the same care and compassion," she said.
Counselling is provided throughout a client's entire decision-making process. Should she choose to parent the child, small group-style programming is offered to provide a community for mothers, and the baby boutique offers free baby and maternal clothing, childcare accessories and toys, MacKinnon said.
McClintick said the IPC in Charlottetown offered her everything she could think of, even if it was simply a supportive chat.
"Because raising a kid is not easy," McClintick said. "(And) it's not cheap."
Should a client choose adoption or to have an abortion, the IPC will continue to be there for its clients afterward, such as if there is a grieving process, MacKinnon said.
"We want to support (them) through the whole decision," she said. "We want them to feel like they can keep coming back."
Summerside's centre is larger than Charlottetown's, and both are provided through donations and volunteer work. Volunteer Jacquie Lewis got involved because the organization supported her daughter through an unexpected pregnancy years ago.
"And they really helped her out," she said. "So I just wanted to give back."
MacKinnon is excited to now be servicing clients in western P.E.I. who may not have been able to make it to Charlottetown – to support them through their decision, to hear them, and to provide a safe place where they can feel what they need to feel, she said.
"Feeling alone and feeling unheard can be pretty catastrophic, especially in a situation where you have such a huge decision to make," she said. "We're here to support."
Following McClintick's decision, she now lives in Monticello with her two-year-old son, Liam. For those who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant or in a situation similar to her own experience, she had these words of advice:
"Always ask for help. Always," she said. "It never hurts to ask for help."
AT A GLANCE:
- The Island Pregnancy Centre (IPC) in Summerside is located on 314 First St. and is open every Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Charlottetown's IPC is at 220 University Ave. and is open Tuesdays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Updates can be found on the organization's Facebook page.
Daniel Brown is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.