“Anybody can pass out diapers,” Paula McSwain said, “but because I can share the Gospel, that’s why I leave my kids and come here.”
McSwain took over as executive director at Lincoln County’s Crisis Pregnancy Center in October.
After realizing she still volunteered with the facility from home as much as when she previously worked for the nonprofit as an assistant director from 2009 to 2011, she felt led to apply for the open leadership position this past summer.
“I had no intentions to return,” she said, “but I couldn’t get away from it. “
It actually took a vivid dream and three different friends suggesting she apply before she followed through with the conviction — a conviction she spent a lot time and prayer on, she said.
In March, the Lincolnton resident dreamed she was on a large ship, returning home from a mission trip, trying to find her lost toolbox. She later interpreted the dream to be a picture of her personal fears — fears that maybe her time working in ministry had come to a close.
“I thought my ministry tools had been taken away from me,” she said.
Shortly after, she felt God gently reassure her of His plans; she felt Him call her back to the organization.
“I just knew I was coming back here,” McSwain said, “but I didn’t know how that was all going to work out.”
At the time, no open position at the center existed.
As the mother of three waited eagerly on God to reveal her next step, a friend contacted her in the spring, notifying her of the director availability.
Over the last two-and-a-half-years, Crisis Pregnancy Center has had three different leaders, including one interim, she said.
While she desperately wanted to apply for the job after speaking with her friend, she continued to believe that God would more clearly “open a door” of opportunity for her.
McSwain said a second friend offered her the same news about the opening weeks later but, again, she waited.
Finally, during one of her early morning prayer sessions at home with her children, whom she also homeschools in addition to working 50 hours a week at the local organization, the phone rang, she said.
This time, a third friend urged her to pursue the nonprofit position.
Immediately after the call, McSwain broke down, fell on her knees and asked God for wisdom and clarity in making the right decision.
While praying, she thought back to the phone call and knew it was her answer.
McSwain secured an interview in September and was hired the following month, she said.
The organization’s team of board members, recently reduced from nine to six, voted on what person would best fill the role.
While the job often has McSwain simultaneously crying happy and sad tears, she wouldn’t trade her responsibility for anything, even though it sometimes requires tracking down a mouse inside the building or cleaning toilets.
“It’s not 30 hours a week,” she said. “It’s 24/7.”
McSwain, along with three other trained counselors, meets with clients 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
On Wednesdays, McSwain completes strictly business-related items from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and, if necessary, cleans the site on weekends.
Each month, close to 50 women, either pregnant or new mothers, flock to the crisis center for aid, whether it be for a comforting hug, words of encouragement or to retceive baby items.
Pregnant women may also enroll in the organization’s “Hand-Up Program,” McSwain said, which allows them to earn points for taking classes. Points are then traded in for necessities such as baby clothes, blankets, bottles and more.
During 2013, Crisis Pregnancy Center assisted more than 900 individuals, 144 of who were first-time clients. A majority of them fell between the age range of high school teen and 24.
The organization also administered nearly 150 free pregnancy tests from January to November, McSwain said.
The tests are just one of multiple items available at the facility pro-bono.
“Everything we do is free, and everything we do is confidential,” McSwain said.
Free services also include abstinence and STD counseling.
The new director sat down with the Times-News on Thursday and reflected on some of the more painful circumstances she’s encountered over the years with women who have either just lost a baby — in the womb or days after birth — or received an abortion.
McSwain is most challenged, she said, by women with “flippant attitudes” about engaging in casual sexual relationships.
Her goal, in theory, would be to “curb that mindset” and shut down the center forever.
“We wouldn’t need to be here,” she said.
She told board members the same thing.
“I told them, ‘If I come on board (as director), I will be in the business of putting us out of business,’” McSwain said.
Regarding the organization’s financial state, money is tough to come by, and with a small annual budget around $60,000, donations are greatly needed.
Most funding comes from individual or church-based donations, center officials said.
The facility does receive grant funding on occasion, but the provisions hardly come in cash form.
While funding is vital for the center to operate, McSwain’s focus is on clients’ souls.
“I’m a whole lot more concerned about the girls,” she said, “than I am money.”
McSwain’s happiest moment with a woman is when she realizes her mother still loves her and isn’t going to “kill her” for getting pregnant or watching someone change their stance from pro-abortion to anti-abortion, keeping the baby.
“It’s a privilege (to work here),” McSwain said, “and I’m thankful every day when I walk in the door.”
In addition to heading Crisis Pregnancy Center, McSwain leads the women’s ministry at Daystar Family Worship Center in Lincolnton, where her husband Roger also serves as associate pastor.
For more information on CPC or details on how to volunteer or donate, call (704) 732-3384.
CPC offers volunteer training twice a year.