The Bakersfield Pregnancy Center, serving Kern County since 1985, has a unique group of loving, caring and understanding volunteers who faithfully reach out their hands to women and men in our community facing difficult times and decisions.

In the last fiscal year, the center was able to serve 3,217 clients. Workers there performed 694 ultrasounds, gave 1,178 pregnancy tests and administered 144 free tests for sexually transmitted infections. They also helped 258 clients with material assistance, hosted 172 parenting classes for individuals and provided 163 men with fatherhood coaching.

Executive Director Erin Rogers reports that the center "recently received a grant for $20,000 to expand our fatherhood program, so we are very excited to implement (a) new curriculum and outreach efforts to support and equip the fathers-to-be in their new journey into parenting."

The center is expanding its sexually transmitted infection testing program to offer and give treatments for gonorrhea and chlamydia. It plans to begin full-panel testing for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis C.

It is also working closely with Kern County Public Health, Black Infant Health and First 5 of California to launch a new initiative addressing Black maternal and infant mortality rates in Kern County.

The hope is that medical providers will be better equipped for the unique challenges local Black women face during pregnancy, while also encouraging enrollment in the Black Infant Health Program operated by the county.

The center's ICU Mobile Unit is expanding to offer free pregnancy tests, limited first-trimester ultrasounds and sexually transmitted infection testing in Kern County, including Bakersfield, McFarland and Taft.

Rogers is also excited to share news of an upcoming fall fundraiser, Aiming for Great Fatherhood, Oct. 16 at Five Dogs Shooting Range. The fundraiser, a clay shoot for teams of five, will also include a barbecue fiesta lunch for participants as well as friends who only want to come for lunch. For information, visit the center's website, www.bpcpartners.org, and its Facebook page, Bakersfield Pregnancy Center Partners.

The center's volunteers enjoy sharing its services with the community. They make presentations at churches, youth groups and schools. They also give tours to anyone interested in their work, whether it's for someone considering becoming a donor or volunteering. Those interested can visit wehelpyou.org to find out more.

If you or someone you know needs the services of the pregnancy center, call and make an appointment. The center meets its clients with professionalism, kindness, compassion and community in a time that can often be unplanned, uncertain and fearful.

Community members wanting to help the center support Kern County's women can make monetary donations online. Note that the center can always use infant gowns, sleepers, baby towels and washcloths, baby shampoo and wash, diaper cream, infant toys, books and diapers size newborn to 2. Items can be donated at the Bakersfield Pregnancy Center at 1801 18th St.