As with many significant ventures, First Coast Women’s Services began out of the experiences of one family. In 1992 Lauren Ashauer found herself in an unplanned pregnancy with nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Her parents were supportive and helped her through the difficult time as she carried and gave birth to a beautiful little girl she named Charity and placed in adoption. As her mother shared in this experience with her, she realized that Jacksonville did not have an adequate ministry for girls like Lauren. Sara Ashauer wanted to change that.
In September 1992, the Ashauers assembled a small group of individuals to consider the establishment of a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in the Mandarin area of Jacksonville, Florida, following the guidelines in a publication called How to Start a Crisis Pregnancy Center from the Christian Action Counsel. Local churches were contacted and asked to send representatives to public meetings in early 1993 at which time a steering committee was selected.
The steering committee was interdenominational and service oriented in their focus. The first Board of Directors was selected and the Mandarin Area Crisis Pregnancy Center was incorporated in June 1993. The name of the center was changed to First Coast Crisis Pregnancy Center in the fall of 1993 to encourage participation from clients and churches from all surrounding areas.
A successful pastors’ prayer breakfast was held in September 1993, followed by an inaugural fundraising banquet in November featuring U.S. Congressman Henry Hyde. First Coast Crisis Pregnancy Center officially opened its doors to clients on June 13, 1994 in rented facilities on Sunbeam Rd. The Center continued to grow and the name was changed to First Coast Women’s Services in March 1997 to better encompass the broader services now provided.
In February 1999, a new facility was purchased on San Jose Boulevard. Members of Northeast Florida Builder’s Association, other areas business owners and volunteers donated over $60,000 in renovation work to the center. The new center opened on October 1, 1999 and was formally dedicated on February 5, 2000.
In 2002, First Coast Women’s Services also established a Memorial for the Unborn, where women could purchase plaques to memorialize children lost to abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth. In cooperation with First Baptist Church of Jacksonville and major corporate sponsors, First Coast Women’s Services dedicated Florida’s First Coast Memorial for the Unborn on September 7, 2002, the first memorial of its kind in Florida.
First Coast Women’s Services also adopted an international ministry in 2002 as staff traveled to Ekaterinburg, Russia at the request of East-West Ministries and an existing crisis pregnancy center in Russia. FCWS staff shared training material and led seminars in Russia in subsequent years. A center in Samara was adopted and supported financially by a tithe from the Baby Bottle Fundraiser and in prayer by First Coast for several years.
We continue to sow some of the financial blessings of God upon ministries in the US and in other countries each year.
In an effort to reach more young women needing assistance, the Board commissioned a steering committee in 2004 to determine the need and support for a center in the beaches area. The community responded positively and First Coast Women’s Services received significant seed money through a start-up grant from The Sontag Foundation and a church which was disbanding. As a result, a second center opened to serve clients in the Beaches community in October 2005.
A steering committee was formed in 2005 to study the feasibility of centers in the Baker County and Clay County areas of the First Coast. A new satellite center was dedicated and opened its doors on December 3, 2007 in Baker County and in Clay County on September 1, 2009. Desiring to extend our borders to minister to those needing our services on the northside, our Northside Center was opened on August 11, 2020.
First Coast Women’s Services is continuing to seek new and better ways to impact young women, including disenfranchised groups. We were invited to offer pregnancy counseling once a week at the Trinity Rescue Mission Women and Children’s Shelter facility in downtown Jacksonville and provided services there from 2006 until 2009. Although this was valuable experience, the Board decided that a Mobile Pregnancy Center would enable us to meet the needs of underserved women in more urban communities, and provide alternative solutions to unplanned pregnancies near the new Planned Parenthood facility on the day they perform abortions. Our Mobile Pregnancy Center began operation in the fall of 2013.
Since male figures (partners and fathers) in the lives of our clients have great influence in the decision to carry, adopt or abort, we initiated a Men’s Ministry in the summer of 2006. Since its conception, this ministry has grown with volunteer male mentors who will talk with the significant men in our clients’ lives. These Male Mentors also meet with men who are considering or who have chosen abortion in the past and need wisdom and healing.
A strategic planning committee was formed in the fall of 2006 for the purpose of evaluating our goals and objectives for the future. A Strategic Plan for the next three years was developed. The goals and objectives of this plan are evaluated and updated each year and a completely new Strategic Plan is created by the Board and Staff every three years.
A New Era
As we move into an era where the culture continues to change, we continue to seek ways to attract potential clients to our services. In this regard, a Call Center was established in November of 2021. to provide an opportunity for those needing help to talk directly with medical staff to have questions answered, and to schedule appointments with any of our locations for further services such as pregnancy tests and ultrasounds.
As our ministry has grown, so has the need for more space! We were able to purchase and renovate a bank building on Kernan and Beach Blvd to move and house not only our Beaches Center staff and services, but all of our Administrative staff as well. This location also meets the goal to attract more college students, as the campus of FCSJ is just a few miles away! This Kernan Center has proven to be one of God’s choosing, as we have been able to serve more clients.
In December 2023, First Coast Women’s Services acquired it’s sixth Center location through a merger with Esteem Women’s Center in St. Augustine. In 2024, we will be equipping the new St. Augustine Center to be a fully functioning Center, like our other locations, so we can serve the St. Augustine community.
First Coast Women’s Services continues to see an increase in new clients as we strive to empower women to make informed choices about their pregnancies. This often begins with providing free pregnancy tests and pregnancy confirmation through limited ultrasound. We also offer Abortion Healing Assistance, a Bible study for those having made a past abortion choice. Men with abortion in their past can also find healing through a Men’s study.
We offer community education presentations, including abstinence education. Our “Earn While You Learn Program” enables our female and male clients to earn needed baby equipment and supplies while gaining the necessary skills to be successful as parents.
Our primary ministry is an outreach to the women, men and families in our community who face a crisis pregnancy by providing emotional, spiritual, educational and material support. All our services are provided at no charge to clients.