FirstLook Sexual Health & Pregnancy Center hosted a sold-out, 600-plus, dinner banquet to commemorate the first 25 years of its successful operation in Ellis County. The celebration and fundraising gala was held on Feb. 7 at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

Board of Directors’ President Vernon Witherspoon, CEO Donna Young, and a dedicated staff of 65 active volunteers, were instrumental in organizing the celebration.

FirstLook Pregnancy Center, originally known as Crisis Pregnancy Center of Ellis County, first opened its doors to the public in 1995. This ministry is a nonprofit Christian organization dedicated to saving lives and protecting futures. Their services focus on providing positive, life-affirming alternatives to abortion for women and families facing an unplanned pregnancy. This important team of caring individuals offer women and men (from all over Ellis County and beyond its boundaries) a variety of clinical services, educational programs, counseling, and support. No one is ever turned away, and their clients’ complete privacy is always honored.

Services are tailored to each client depending upon where they are in their journey. Their primary goal at FirstLook is to educate clients on their pregnancy options, arm them with facts, and empower them to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families. All services are completely confidential and delivered to all, at no cost to them.

FirstLook is guided by the following values: 1) Sanctity of Human Life, 2) Authentic Relationships, 3) Wholistic Care, 4) Christlike Compassion, and 5) Unified Commitment.

Witherspoon, opened the evening by welcoming the guests and thanking County Judge Todd Little, and the four County Commissioners on the passing of a resolution declaring Ellis County a “sanctuary city for the unborn."

“Concerning pro-life, the cause is great, and we’re grateful for the leadership and courage of this city and county to stand up for the unborn," Witherspoon said. “God has had His hand on this ministry for 25 years and we thank Him for the good work He has helped us accomplish here."

Bruce Zimmerman, pastor of Waxahachie Bible Church and founding board member of FirstLook, served as emcee.

One of the highlights of the night was the introduction of FirstLook’s first-ever client, Norma Rangel.

Rangel, a student at Ennis High School in 1995, was a confused and upset 18-year-old that found herself pregnant and alone. She said her father had preached to her her whole life about and how she must be willing to wait to marry and then have children. She felt like she had no choice but to abort her baby or move out of her father’s house.

 “At the time, I believed I had no other option but to go to the abortion clinic in Dallas," Rangel said. "On my way up the walkway to the clinic, someone from the ‘Operation Rescue Clinic’ stopped and talked to me. You see, their clinic just happened to be right next door.”

After going over some possible options, Rangel decided to become a part of their program. Operation Rescue contacted the new (and first founding) director of the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Ellis County – Laurie Westlake – and the rest, over some time, became a happy ending to this young women’s story.

“I suddenly had choices no one had even told me about," she said. "I decided to move out of my family’s home and became determined to keep my daughter. As a result, I lived in the home of Director Laurie Westlake for one and a half years. The Westlakes took me right in and made me feel like I was part of their family. They always went to church, so I naturally went with them. One day, while sitting with my new family at the kitchen table, I asked Laurie how I could become a Christian. Mr. Westlake then led me to the Lord and I became a Christ-follower that very day. Before, I had felt so ashamed of what I had done, but after my conversion, I immediately felt relieved, just like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders.”

She continues, “When it was time for my baby to be born, I was so happy to have my mom, my sister, and Laurie Westlake (my forever friend) in the room with me as we welcomed my sweet baby girl – Yese -- together.”

Waxahachie Bible Church, then helped Norma and her daughter move into a small apartment of their own. About a year later, the Yese's father stepped back into the picture and they were married. Juan and Norma Rangel have now been married for 23 years. They also have two other children, boys ages 17 and 14.

Yese shared her part of her mom’s FirstLook story. She boldly told her mother and the crowd how much she admires her mom for her decision to save her life. Yese is currently in college and pursuing a master’s degree as a child life specialist.

 “I am here for a purpose. And I thank the Lord for providing for me and my mom through your wonderful program called FirstLook," she concluded to a standing ovation from the audience.

Appreciation gifts were also presented to the two doctors who have served as Medical Directors of FirstLook – Dr. George Kingsley and Dr. Michael T. Glover.

The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Jim Denison, who is a co-founder and the CEO of Denison Forum.

Through The Daily Article, his email newsletter and podcast that globally reaches 205,000-plus subscribers, Denison guides readers to discern today’s news – biblically. He is the author of multiple books, including his most recent book, "How Does God See America," and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries.

Denison quoted from the Declaration of Independence, saying, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – “these are three of the ‘unalienable rights’ which the Declaration says have been given to ALL HUMANS by their Creator, and which governments are created to protect – and that includes unborn babies.”

He then asked the large audience the following question: “How do we ensure ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ as pro-life supporters?”

1. By encouraging abstinence before marriage; 2. By supporting sonograms before abortions; 3. By promoting adoption as a viable choice; 4. By those who believe in pro-life using their influence to defend life.

Denison urged the crowd to be what the Lord calls us to be in Matthew 5:13 – “You are the salt of the earth."

Denison then shared that he has visited the Holocaust Museum – Yad Vashem – many times during his trips to Israel. However, he explains, “This is one thing that I see every time I go through the sacred walls of this important memorial and I want you, as my audience tonight, to be aware of its warning, 'A country is not what it does – it is also what it tolerates.'"

Not only was FirstLook celebrating its first 25 years, but toward the conclusion of the evening, Julie Farrar, Capital Campaign manager, made a report on the organization’s campaign totals. Farrar announced that a grand total of $1,121,000 had been raised so far for the building project, including a $160,000 challenge grant from The Mabee Foundation. In order to receive that grant, FirstLook must meet the challenge and raise another $160,000.

According to Young, contributions to close-out the Capital Campaign and to meet the $160,000 challenge grant, any amount of donation may still be made at: friendsoffirstlook.org. Any further financial questions may be directed to Farrar at (972) 938-7900.

Farrar also said the new 9,000-square-foot center is to be located on YMCA Drive in north Waxahachie, on land donated by The Avenue Church. These new facilities will allow FirstLook to serve even more individuals, grow program offerings, and expand its impact across Ellis County.

In addition, Farrar announced that the official ground-breaking for the new building will be this summer. The exact date is forthcoming.

To recap the year of 2019, FirstLook had a total of 1,391 client visits – which provided medical, educational, and support services – and that included pregnancy testing and ultrasounds, STI testing and treatment, prenatal, parenting, and life skills classes, pregnancy options counseling, and spiritual mentoring and more. The overall success of FirstLook’s 2019 is summed-up in the fact that the organization provided a total of $289,000 of services – at no cost to their clients.

CEO Donna Young closed-out the evening by urging everyone to get involved in this effort. She explained the diverse ways that an individual can contribute monetarily or by becoming a volunteer.

Event sponsors include: Action Fire Pros, their Guardian for Life sponsor; National Fleet, their Gold sponsor; DTAC and M & N Custom Homes and Construction, their Bronze sponsors; and John and Molly Bielamowicz and Citizens National Bank of Texas, our Copper sponsors.

 “The time is now, and we thank every one of you for standing for life with us," Young said.