- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - A little blue dot can turn out to be one of the greatest gifts in a woman’s life - even if it’s scary at first.

With an unplanned pregnancy comes fear, worry and uncertainly about the future - especially for single moms. But beneath that, there’s a selfless choice to bring life into the world.

While some might expect church to be the last place a pregnant, single woman would turn to for support, two Gillette women are trying to change that.

For Sawyer Poitra and Lacey Baker, who both went through unplanned, teen pregnancies, coordinating a Bible study for unmarried mothers is their way of paying that experience forward and easing new mothers’ worries.

Poitra started the first Embrace Grace group in Wyoming for New Life Wesleyan Church. The organization has groups all around the nation that aim to give single mothers spiritual and emotional support.

The two-part program aims to both empower the mothers and equip the church “to love on single moms.”

“I really feel called to do this and help others through this time,” Poitra said. “I’ve been in their shoes, and I can honestly tell them that they’re going to make it through to the other side and be great moms.”

Poitra was 16 when she became pregnant with her daughter, Rylan, 9. Now she’s been married to her high school sweetheart for six years and has been blessed with a son, Eli, 4.

She wants to show all expecting mothers that they have a bright future, too, she said.

“This is meant to show them that instead of the church being the last place to turn, they can come here and not feel like they’re being stared at or judged,” she said.

Five young women enrolled in the first “semester” of the 10-week program that started in October. They meet once a week with Poitra and Baker to follow a DVD curriculum and have group prayer and Bible study.

Embrace Grace recently teamed up with Love Gillette, a volunteer service group from the same church, to give the women a baby shower that was attended by about 66 people who showed their support and love, Poitra said.

“Having a baby is hard enough when you have your finances and career in line,” said Elly Henning, who coordinates the Love Gillette group that donated supplies and decorations to the event. “This is just a small way to show comfort and that life is beautiful - especially since these women had other options.”

Starlyn Kunz, 19, was overwhelmed with emotion at the shower, her eyes filling with tears as she unwrapped gifts from church members. She had her daughter, Journey, about three months ago and said she really benefited from the program.

“I just feel really blessed to get back into church,” she said. “Religiously and mentally. It’s great to be able to socialize with people like myself.”

“It’s really nice that she has so many people to support her,” her mother said. “People in this community have such big hearts.”

One of those people was Grace Bulley, a member of the church who felt compelled to show her support at the shower.

“I have a lot in common with them,” she said. “I was 17 when I had my first baby, and I remember being afraid and not knowing what was going to happen.”

“This is just overwhelming,” said Whitney Peterson, 27, who is due with a boy on Dec. 9. “It really shows how our community comes together, and I feel very loved.”

Poitra was very pleased with the shower’s turnout.

“It showed the girls that it’s not just talk,” she said. “People came out and showed them how loved they are - people handmade blankets specially for them.”

And for Poitra, that effort spans across many facets of her life. Along with coordinating Gillette’s Embrace Grace group, she is a nurse for the Women’s Resource Center.

“Working at the Women’s Resource Center, I see a lot of these women,” she said. “And with Embrace Grace, I can bridge that gap with a group to support them. I feel like I’ve been prepared to do this, and it’s nice to see that it’s paid off.”

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