This year marks the 25th year that the Toccoa Life Center has been ministering to women faced with unplanned pregnancies. Barbara Mattison, one of the founders of Toccoa Life, said that more than 2,500 babies whose mothers came to Toccoa Life have been saved from abortions.
Stemming from the prayers of Mattison and three of her friends against abortion, God laid it upon their hearts to open a center for women who had to make a decision about unplanned pregnancies. Mattison and her husband John first opened Toccoa Life in a small building off Big A Road, but they now run it from their home on Doyle Street.
The center tries “to be there for them[the women who come] during and after their pregnancy,” Mattison said. Even more specifically, Toccoa Life wants to encourage women that abortion is not the only answer to an unwanted pregnancy. Vannessa O’Steen, a volunteer at Toccoa Life, said that one of the most rewarding things about working there is getting to “reassure the girls that there are other options and they’re not alone.” Mattison expressed how most girls will change their minds about having an abortion if just one person tells them not to. “They just want someone to be there for them,” she said.
Confidentiality and care are the two things Toccoa Life stresses in their ministry. The counselors encourage adoption and offer support if the mother decides to keep the child. Although much of the support they give is emotional, they also meet physical needs the mothers may have. Things such as diapers, baby food and clothes are constantly being given out to the women that come in. In order to continue their ministry, the center is always in need of volunteers, monetary donations, and baby supplies.
When it is determined at the center that a woman is pregnant, they offer the option of receiving a free ultrasound. Once a month, an ultrasound technician from “Life Images” in Blairsville, Georgia, comes to Toccoa Life to perform the ultrasounds on women who are interested. After seeing their baby, those considering abortion almost always change their mind, Mattison said.
Toccoa Life’s ministry also goes beyond saving babies. “You can’t save them unless you save the girl,” Mattison added. In addition to helping women who are considering their options, Toccoa Life is also there to help those who have already had an abortion in the past. Girls often find it hard to forgive themselves after having an abortion, and Mattison said that getting the women that come in to make that step is crucial to the healing process.
Toccoa Life also ministers by continuing to care for the women even after they have their child. The pregnant mothers are encouraged to stay in touch after their baby is born, and Toccoa Life will put together a layette filled with baby needs to assist them after they give birth. In addition to that, the Mattisons host a Christmas party each year at their home for the families of children born through Toccoa Life. As long as they are able, they will provide each child that attends with a toy and an article of clothing. They have come a long way since the first party with only 4 children; they counted 400 kids at last year’s Christmas party.
At this point, the Mattisons are eager to find people with their same vision, to continue Toccoa Life after they are gone. “We need people willing to sacrifice”, Mattison said. After 25 years, “the Lord continues to remind us that it’s worth it.”