GREENFIELD — After 14 years in banking, Joni Roberts has chosen to pivot her career in an entirely different direction.
Roberts recently took over as executive director of Life Choices Care Center, and in her new position, she is working to expand the crisis pregnancy center’s role in the community.
The Christian faith-based facility has previously focused on counseling services, advising women to preserve their pregnancies and consider options other than abortion, but Roberts is now expanding its services by offering abstinence programming in local schools.
“It’s a way for us to be proactive with young people and to encourage these values so we can avoid any future problems altogether,” said Roberts, who recently moved from Knightstown to Greenfield. “We need to raise more awareness about these issues and of this organization to really make the difference we’re looking for.”
Life Choices, 1454 N. State St., remains committed to its counseling services and supporting both the physical and emotional needs of those who come in, Roberts said. It continues to offer free pregnancy and HIV testing, financial and relationship counseling and referrals for adoption services and other resources. It also provides mothers with the items needed to care for newborns, from hand-knitted blankets to formula and baby food.
Though its services are driven by Christian ideals, the nonprofit center doesn’t limit its resources to those who identify with its beliefs.
“We may be a faith-based organization, but that doesn’t ever mean we’d limit what we offer,” Roberts said. “If anyone walks in the door seeking help and guidance, then we’re going to help them.”
Roberts’ decision to seek an administrative position in an entirely different field was spurred by a car crash in 2012 that killed her husband and left her with a broken leg and serious internal injuries. It took seven months to recover from her injuries, and it was then she realized she wanted to impact her community in a way that wasn’t possible in banking. She had volunteered at Life Choices in the past and decided to apply for director when she learned there was an opening.
“That accident is really what changed my direction in life,” she said. “There was physical recovery and emotional recovery, but it’s led me to this point. I really want to make a difference in the community.”
Since coming on as director, Roberts has presented a program promoting abstinence instead of safe-sex alternatives at Eastern Hancock and Greenfield-Central schools. The curricula are designed for sixth- and eighth-grade students, as well as all high school grade levels.
John Hunt, who’s been a board member of the organization since 2003 and has served as chairman since 2009, said the board selected Roberts because members believe many of her skills from banking will carry over to the center’s services.
“She has exceptional business skills, so she knows how to operate an organization, and she can use her skills from banking to help do financial counseling for people who come in,” Hunt said. “We want the people who come in here to gain some skills to market themselves for jobs, and Joni’s an excellent counselor for all that.”
Scott Kern, who joined the board in early May and was closely involved with the hiring process, agreed with Hunt, adding that Roberts’ skills will help the center with fundraising. She’s also done a lot to boost the center’s profile, he said.
“She’s only been on the job a few weeks, but she’s reached out to the community in several ways,” said Kern, executive minister at Park Chapel Christian Church in Greenfield. “She’s already made connections with local schools and churches. She’ll be the face of Life Choices, and she has the skills to do that.”
Roberts has taken over for the previous director, Susan Hall, who left the ministry in the spring for personal reasons.
The center originated as The Pregnancy Care Center of Greenfield, which opened in a storefront north of Marsh in 1999 through the support of local pastors and ministries. The center has moved a couple of times and changed names in 2004. It’s funded entirely through donations and is partnered with The Landing, a faith-based organization committed to teens struggling with addiction and other personal issues.
Life Choices Care Center is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. It has a 24-hour call line, 317-467-9700, for emergency counseling and referrals.