From Townhall Magazine's January feature, "Life at the Crossroads," by Mark Kakkuri:
On a crisp, fall day in 2012, a 27-year old woman named Jennifer pulled open the door to Crossroads Pregnancy Center in Auburn Hills, Mich. She entered the 3,800 square foot structure, formerly a bank and the westernmost building in an outdoor strip that contains a Little Caesars, ACO Hardware and Rite Aid. A 10-year old boy and a 24-year old woman both followed her in. With a kind smile on her face, Jennifer looked around the small lobby, walked up to the receptionist’s desk, and announced why she was there: “I’m sure no one here would know me, but I was a client of this pregnancy center 10 years ago.” Putting her arm around the boy while affectionately smiling at him, she continued, “This is my 10-year-old son whom I chose to have because of the help I received here.” Jennifer then looked over to the other woman, her friend, with compassion. “My friend is pregnant. She needs your help. And that’s why we’re here.”
Jennifer’s declaration carried into Executive Director Tim Stickel’s office, just a few feet away. Intrigued, he emerged to meet the three visitors. While he introduced himself, the Crossroads receptionist began the process of helping Jennifer’s friend.
After a few weeks of care and counsel from the Crossroads staff, Jennifer’s friend, like her, decided to have the baby.
“We experience referrals like that a lot,” Stickel says. “A girl realizes she’s in trouble, thinks she’s pregnant, doesn’t know what to do, asks her friends, and her friends point her to Crossroads.”
Loving the Grandkids
Stickel, 62, has held the post of executive director since 2005 and is the only full-time employee of the center, located just 30 miles north of Detroit. A veteran of the Armed Forces whose past work includes running his own print shops and construction businesses, he is also an ordained minister. He sports a 2-foot long gray ponytail that he keeps tucked in behind his shirt collar. Happily married with two grown children and one grandchild, he lovingly refers to all the babies who make their way through Crossroads as his “grandchildren.”
Since he took the post of executive director, Stickel has experienced the gamut of situations facing women with “problem” pregnancies and has seen both positive and negative trends. Eight years ago, women came in to the center alone. Now, some form of male support comes in with them. About 20 percent of the time it is the father of the baby.
“Still, some men are actually taking some responsibility—which is encouraging,” he says.
Caring for Clients in Crisis
In 2012, the Crossroads staff had appointments with well over 2,000 women—the center refers to them as “clients.” While Stickel says it is difficult to explain what constitutes a typical process, generally the client is a young woman who will come in, ask if the center will perform an abortion—“No,” he says kindly but emphatically—and is usually glad to receive some genuine care and all the helpful information that the center provides.
After some paperwork is completed, the staff asks the client some questions about her background—how she was raised, whether a boyfriend is involved, religious beliefs and some physiological data.
U“We probe a little to determine if there’s been any abuse,” says Stickel, “as I am a mandatory reporter. But our questions are our attempts to try to understand the girls so that we can truly help them.”
Many of the clients, in fact, are abused.
“Their lives are so bad it makes you wonder what the world is really like,” he says.
After the client answers these initial questions, peer counselors will take her to a counseling room for further discussion. Stickel says that most girls are pretty comfortable with the Crossroads counselors: “We have a good reputation for treating them fairly and we don’t whack them with a Bible.”
Read the rest of Kakkuri's feature by ordering the January issue of Townhall Magazine. [Editor's note: Kakkuri is a member of Five Points Community Church, which helps support the Crossroads Pregnancy Center.]