Next Step Memorial Garden

Next Step PRC memorial garden is open 24/7 for those who would like to come and reflect in peace. 

Being a new parent can be a scary and difficult time. Fortunately, there is a free local service that can help. Next Step Pregnancy and Relationship Center seeks to assist new moms and dads, not only providing physical items babies need, but the knowledge and tools for raising their children as well as building successful relationships. 

“There is a need, and we want to be here as a nonprofit,” Kylee Torrico, director of development at Next Step PRC, said. “We want to equip families to be successful.” 

You don’t have to be a parent or parent-to-be to make use of Next Step PRC’s services. Anyone can visit the center, at 902 D Ave., La Grande, and sign up for the Earn While You Learn program. This program uses books and videos with worksheets to educate people on a variety of topics. According to Next Step PRC’s website, topics include fertility and reproductive health, healthy relationships, STDs and STIs, the female reproductive system, prenatal development, preparing for childbirth, breastfeeding, parenting, first-year milestones for children, common childhood illnesses, childhood emergencies, car seat safety and potty training. 

For each lesson completed, a person can earn money to be used in the Next Step Boutique. The boutique is a collection of new or gently used donated items such as clothes from premature newborn to 2T, maternity clothes, men’s clothing and the essentials for raising a baby. 

In addition to this program, the center offers a memorial garden for anyone to visit, 24/7. The gate to the garden is closed but left unlocked. People may come to reflect on and honor those they have lost. There is an option to purchase a memorial plaque to be placed on the wooden panels that surround the garden. Torrico hopes that someday all of the panels will be covered with memorials. 

Next Step PRC was established in La Grande in 1992, and has gone through various name changes since then, including Birthright and Next Step Pregnancy and Information Center. When it began, the center was a place for new and expectant mothers to receive guidance during their pregnancy journey, with information on adoption, abortion and parenting. The center does not facilitate adoption or abortion, but shares information about it. While Next Step PRC still has information on those services, they have increased their topics to include establishing healthy relationships. All of the funding for this service comes from local and private donations. 

Next Step PRC will host an event Oct. 15 to participate in the Wave of Light, a national event honoring the babies who have died before and after being born. Torrico said the death of infants and miscarriages aren’t often talked about and she hopes this event will help those who may feel like they are alone. During the event, people will light candles at 7 p.m. in whatever time zone they are in. This will create a wave of light across the nation. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and there will be finger foods served, until 8 p.m. with candle lighting in the memorial garden at 7 p.m.

“We want to show people they are not alone,” Torrico said. “It is a family that no one wants to be a part of, but there is so much support (if) you are there.” 

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