The Abel Center: A Calling Fulfilled
Alumna Carrie Booth Bradshaw is the personification of the Bluefield College vision and mission. Her response to God’s calling on her life, which began soon after she graduated from BC in 1989, is celebrating 20 years of service to the Greater Bluefield community and the transformation of countless lives.
August 1, 2014
Bluefield College alumna and Abel Crisis Pregnancy Center founder Carrie Booth Bradshaw (right) with her father, Wayne Booth, also a BC grad.
Carrie Bradshaw (front right) with her husband, David (back right), son, Andrew (back left), and daughter, Rachel.
Bluefield College states in its mission a desire to develop “transformational servant leaders.” The BC vision: to graduate students who “understand their life calling and transform the world.”
Alumna Carrie Booth Bradshaw is the personification of that vision and mission. Her response to God’s calling on her life, which began soon after she graduated from BC in 1989, is celebrating 20 years of service to the Greater Bluefield community and the transformation of countless lives.
Bradshaw came to Bluefield College from Christiansburg, Virginia, in 1985 to study sociology. She quickly became involved in a variety of extracurricular activities, including the Baptist Student Union, intramurals, Phi Mud Delta, and the student newspaper, Campus Action. She also traveled with a BC student revival team to support church ministries and worked with youth at both Rocky Gap Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Bluefield.
It was through her involvement in mission and ministry work that Bradshaw began to realize a need for Greater Bluefield and began to sense a call from God that she was to meet that need. The call on her heart: a center or a resource for women of Greater Bluefield struggling with unexpected pregnancy.
“It is my conviction that we need a crisis pregnancy center to meet the needs of hurting women,” said Bradshaw in a letter she wrote to churches in 1992 inviting them to an informational meeting, “a center to minister to women of all ages who may be pregnant and facing difficult decisions.”
Just fresh out of college and working as the director of the Victim and Witness Assistance Program for the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, Bradshaw called on an inspirational mentor – Vi Galyean, a teenage girls mission leader with Acteens who managed a similar crisis pregnancy center in Blacksburg, Virginia – for advice on how to fulfill her calling.
“Vi was a registered nurse and a very demonstrative and passionate person when it came to caring for the less fortunate,” said Bradshaw. “It was clear to me her life’s calling was to protect the unborn and minister to young women who found themselves alone, afraid and hurting. She had a strong influence on me, and I looked to her as the process of starting a center in Bluefield began to emerge.”
Bradshaw said she believed strongly that Bluefield needed a ministry for women like the one Galyean was leading in Blacksburg, so much so that she contacted an organization called CareNet, who gave her step-by-step instructions on how to develop a crisis pregnancy center. But, despite the need, Bradshaw said she didn’t think she could achieve the dream.
“I set it aside for a very long time, maybe six to 12 months, because it seemed too overwhelming,” she said. “During that time, I thought of the possibilities very often and continued to be bothered by my lack of attention to the project. Finally, when that nagging feeling that we affectionately call the Holy Spirit would not go away, I seriously began to organize my thoughts and the steps it would take to assemble a steering committee to begin the process of establishing a center in Bluefield.”
She began with a public relations campaign, speaking in churches, appearing on radio shows, and hosting community informational meetings. Not long after, she had enough support to create a Steering Committee comprised of local church and community leaders who would help her with the development.
“This was an effort of many people and churches,” said Bradshaw. “It is true that it was me that felt it was entirely possible for Bluefield to have its own CPC. It was me that ordered the packet of material and organized like-minded people to dream, vision and plan, but this was a work that God did in the community of Bluefield.”
By 1993, she had formed a Board of Directors, launched a fundraising campaign, and secured a facility on Stadium Drive in Bluefield, West Virginia, to house the center. About the same time, the Board hired the center’s first executive director, Dwain Harwick.
“Dwain is the only director the center has ever had,” said Bradshaw. “His family has been an absolute blessing to this ministry, and I feel very fortunate that he took the reigns of this ministry as he has. His faithfulness has been steadfast, and I don’t think the center would have had the success it has without the consistency he has provided over the years.”
Under Bradshaw’s and Harwick’s leadership, the Abel Crisis Pregnancy Center opened in 1994 with a mission to “provide assistance to women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy or post-abortion.” Named after the Bible’s Abel and strategically to position the name of the resource center in the phone book near the word abortion to suggest alternatives to women in the midst of unplanned pregnancies, the Abel Center began with crisis pregnancy counseling and education on pregnancy options, fetal development, and pregnancy resources in the community.
Today, the Abel Center has served more than 2,600 women with free and confidential pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, pre-natal education, and education about pregnancy options, including abortion, adoption and parenting. The center also provides counseling, recommendations for adoption and maternity homes, and material resources, such as clothing,diapers and baby supplies.
“A former patient stopped by the pregnancy center to donate baby items, and during the course of her visit she began to cry as she shared that her baby is almost a year old,” said Harwick, who in addition to 20 years of direction for the Abel Center is a part-time instructor at Bluefield College. “She thanked us again and again for the help the center was to her and how much she appreciated it. She said she is now a Christian and is so excited and how much she has enjoyed her son.”
At Abel, women find referrals for medical, financial and other resources, along with the emotional support and encouragement they need to identify and heal from post-abortion stress. Taking into account multiple visits from clients who return to the center for ongoing services, the center has carried out nearly 8,000 consultations with women, and this year celebrates its 20th anniversary of service to the community.
“We are meeting a need for women who want to know someone cares for them and their situation,” said Harwick, “women who want someone to listen to them and take a deep interest in the pregnancy decision they are making.”
Since launching Abel, Bradshaw has been a stay-at-home mom, a substitute schoolteacher, a school administrative assistant, and a church youth director. Back home in her native Christiansburg, she now serves as director of Children’s Ministry at Cambria Baptist Church and an administrative assistant at Falling Branch Elementary School. Her husband, David, is owner and president of Interactive GIS. Their children are Rachel, a junior at Carson Newman University, and Andrew, a cadet at Virginia Military Institute.
“Carrie had a vision for a place where women struggling with unexpected pregnancy and post-abortion depression could find love and support,” said President David Olive. “We’re thankful for that vision and for her passion to assist women through this ministry. I amgrateful for the many Bluefield College students who have helped and continue to help at the center, which is making a difference in the lives of countless women, modeling Christ, and offering hope to a hurting world.”