“This is Abigail,” Sherry introduced me. “She worked with Christy doing No Apologies in the schools.” A small chorus of “ohs”. “She’ll be joining us as our receptionist.” A few minutes later, I was settled into a chair on the far side of the table, mentally running back over the ladies’ names and taking everything in, trying to get the feel for Choices. “That’s a praise. Does anyone have any prayer requests?” Sherry asked, looking around the table at eight smiling faces. “Becky, would you mind praying for us this morning, since we’re running a little late?” The slim nurse smiled as she answered, “Sure.” We all bowed our heads.
That’s when my cell phone rang. Only, it doesn’t ring. When Papa calls, it whistles at me.
Seven heads jerked up, eyes wide, looking for the source of the interruption. Nothing like a first impression.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, digging the phone out of my bag and silencing it. The table erupted in merriment and questioning looks. “That was your phone?” “That’s…um…quite the ring tone.” Becky’s eyes crinkled at the corners as she demanded, “Where’d you get that ring tone. I totally want that ring tone—for when my husband calls me.” Embarrassed, I shrugged. “I don’t know where it came from. My dad put it on for his number.”
Discovering the perpetrator of the whistling made them titter even more, but we managed to quiet down and finish our prayer meeting before the first client had been kept waiting too long. Sherry led me back out to the front desk and waiting room and gave me a quick run-over of my duties:
• Greet clients and let their advocate/mentor know they had arrived
• Answer the phone and assist/transfer as needed
• Call tomorrow’s clients to remind them of their appointment
• Schedule any necessary appointments
• Pull client files for today
• File finished client paperwork
• Be careful to maintain “confidentiality”
All of it work they’d shared before. The “extras” that feel like overload to seven ladies with busy schedules, kept me busy for only a few minutes. “Anything else you need me to do while I’m sitting?” I asked Mary Frances. “If you’re bored, I have loads of filing you can do!” Becky teased, poking her head out of her office. “I hate filing.” She held a stack of green manila folders in one hand.
The reception desk phone beeped on line one.
“Hello, Choices Pregnancy Resource Clinic, this is Abigail. May I help you?”
A pause, then: “Yes, this is Maggie. Have any more bottles come in today?”
A pause on my end. Who is Maggie? Why does she care about the Bottles for Babies program? Why does she need to know a bottle number? Have any more bottles come in today? “Just a second,” I put her on hold and scampered to the back room where Shirley and Mary Frances were filling out client paperwork. “Maggie’s on the phone asking if any more bottles have come in today.”
Shirley shook her head. “Some this afternoon.” Then she smiled. “Abigail, Maggie is our secretary.”
Nancy was shuffling through the file cabinet when I returned to the desk. “We’re getting terrible at this filing,” she sighed. “I just can’t find her file.”
“Is this it?” I quizzed, scooping up the files I’d already pulled and handing her one from the top. A funny look crossed her face before she laughed. “Oh. You’d already pulled it? I guess I’m just not used to having a receptionist.”
“May I help you?” I asked as the door jingled and a middle-aged woman stepped through. She certainly didn’t look like she had a crisis pregnancy on her hands. “Yes, actually, I’m Dottie from River Valley Magazine, here for an interview and article. Is Sherry in?”
Feeling important, I rang Sherry and sent Dottie up the narrow staircase to her office. I wasn’t the only one who found the “reporter” intriguing. “Is she still here?” one of the ladies whispered as I entered the kitchen for a drink. “This will be good publicity for us!”
I’d just finished collecting and taking out the trash when the door jingled again. I scurried through the Dutch door to great an older man. “Hello, may I help you?”
He grinned a lop-sided grin. “Yes. May I please speak to Shirley?”
I turned toward the kitchen just as Shirley emerged. “There’s a gentleman asking for you,” I began, as she walked past me into the waiting room, giggling. “Oh Abigail,” she explained. “This is my husband, George. George, meet our new receptionist.”
The schedule book was stacked full in the morning, but by closing time, only about half of the clients had made a showing. “That’s pretty typical,” Shirley informed me. A sad thing, since these ladies are so dedicated to being available for counseling or calls, whether a girl shows up or not. It's exciting to hear the stories of girls who have come in abortion-minded and left with a babe in arms. Being a private, non-profit organization, Choices has to be creative. Based out of a two-story Victorian home near the library, the waiting room used to be a screened in porch. Bedrooms have become cozy offices. The garage is a nifty thrift-store, crammed with tidy donations for girls who have earned “parenting bucks”. The intercom system consists of calling from one line to another and transferring means calling up the desired person and asking them to pick up line one. And they have a nifty little dumb-waiter—a basket on a string—for sending papers up to Sherry in her second story office. But the Lord has really blessed the project. Thirteen years after beginning, there are a score of volunteers, hundreds of churches participating in Bottles for Babies, No Apologies makes an appearance in several local schools, and the clinic has their very own nurse and Ultra-sound room.
Well, and now they finally have a receptionist. At least on Tuesdays.