A local pregnancy support center is a special place for young, first-time moms going through an unplanned pregnancy. The Shepherd's Inn in Idaho Falls offers that little extra support and counseling.
"I believe that what we do impacts not just the client. I believe it has an impact that's like a ripple effect and it affects maybe the young woman and hopefully the baby's father and then their families," said director Julie Zahn.
And it ripples out from there. There are parents involved, sometimes siblings impacted.
Making a difference two lives at a time, that's the charge of The Shepherd's Inn. With a staff of just four, that includes two professional counselors, these women provide free and confidential pregnancy and parenting support and education to young women facing an unplanned pregnancy. They usually work with soon-to-be teen moms, but they've had clients in their late 20s. They reach out to the two area alternative high schools, but often get referrals from social services, counselors or even probation officers.
"They are looking for a way to deal with the situation in the environment they live in," said Zahn.
"I just really have a heart for the birth moms and their babies, and the birth dads," said staff member Lorae Becker.
"It was a blessing. It really was. I honestly don't know what I would have done if I didn't have them," said Aliyah Horne.
Aliyah is a client. Pregnant at 19, she took advantage of the services and opportunities The Shepherd's Inn provided her beginning at her sixth week. Part of the program is set up to earn while a client learns. Through participation, they earn "bucks" to later purchase some of the items available through community donations, such as diapers, wipes, clothing and bottles.
"There was a lot that I had to work through. You know, finding out I was pregnant at a young age, still trying to go to school, and figuring out the financial part of it. I don't get help from my son's dad. So that was something I had to work through and figure out how I was going to do it. I have a really supportive family," said Horne.
"I see it as such an opportunity for growth and change for these young women. You know they've made a mistake or there's a problem in their life, but they've used it as an opportunity to grow and change for the better and mature. And it's amazing to be a part of that experience," said counselor Alese Oakley.
"Without all the support and resources and people that I have in my life that have helped me to be a better mom and to get through this season of life, I don't know what I would do without that kind of support, and so it is very meaningful for me to be able to give that kind of support to people that may not have those sorts of natural resources in their life," said counselor Crystal Felushko.
Aliyah knows how that feels and has advice for young girls who might be in those same shoes.
"I've been right where they are. Um, you know, you just have to work through it and definitely coming and getting the help and support besides my family here was the best decision I ever made," said Horne.
Time to Pay It Forward.
"That's not my client," said Zahn as a man walks into the room.
"Hi Julie. How are you? I'm Kory (Carling) and I'm with Mountain America Credit Union. Shepherd's Inn has touched the lives of many people in our community and for this reason I'm here today to Pay It Forward. So I've brought with me today $500 in cash," said Carling, pulling cash from a blue envelope.
"What? Oh my goodness!" said Zahn.
"That I would like to put toward your program to continue to affect the lives in our community," said Carling.
"Thank you so much," said Becker.
"Wow!" said Zahn.
"Well done," said Carling.
"So there was an alternative motive. Thank you so much. What a blessing," said Zahn.
"Congratulations. It's my pleasure to be part of it," said Carling.
"Thank you. I'm speechless. Look. This is amazing. We were just talking about what a generous community we live in and how we are just blessed again and again and Todd mentioned something about Paying it Forward," said Zahn.
"Because every story she is telling me is somebody helping them help somebody else. So I said, 'So you're really kind of Paying it Forward,'" said KIDK Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz.
"That's awesome," said Carling.
"So it fit together really well. So thank you Kory," said Zahn.
The Shepherd's Inn was founded in 1998 after a tragic incident where a baby was found discarded in a dumpster.
They have a board of directors. but as a nonprofit, 60 percent of their funding comes from donations whether it be community businesses, church or individuals. Only 5 percent comes from small grants. The rest is achieved through fundraisers. There is no state or federal funding.
The Shepherd's Inn is open Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment. The best way to reach them is by phone at 208-525-2014.
"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "Pay It Forward" on the right side of our website and fill out the form, or send an email to Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org.