Amidst the chaos of U.S. inner city-life, whites and blacks strive to free their community from the cycle of welfare and abortion

A unique and independent community service center in Orlando, Florida, is crossing racial lines and avoiding government handouts while putting a pro-life philosophy into action.

Frontline Outreach is based out of a 3,780 square meter facility in inner Orlando and, in addition to crisis pregnancy counseling, offers a number of free programs to inner city youths and their families, including a daycare centre, after-school tutorials, a high school diploma program, pre-natal and parenting classes, athletics and a food and clothing bank.

The agency was launched in November 1967 by white appliance businessman Clarence Smith and his wife, who saw the need for an organization which would help black youths in the inner city. Smith wound up converting one of his three appliance outlets to a youth centre, selling the rest and scrapping plans for a fourth store in order to devote himself full-time to helping black youths.

“It was weird for a white man to shut down his appliance businesses across central Florida and open one of them as a youth center,” says Sylvia Parker, founder and director of Frontline Outreach’s crisis pregnancy counseling program. “He saw the struggles a lot of black families were going through in Orlando. He became a friend to the black people, by offering credit to purchase appliances. It began to consume him.”

“We gave up a very good business,” Smith recalls. “When we started this 28 years ago, we had no idea that we would liquidate three stores and scratch the fourth one which was on the drawing board.”

In addition to a building, Frontline Outreach now boasts a gymnasium, swimming pool, skating rink and playground. It runs all programs on a $1.2 million annual budget—which is relatively modest when one considers it is central Florida’s most diverse community service organization.

“We have a regular donor base and we receive some United Way funding,” says Parker. “But basically, we work on a wing and a prayer. We’ve never had it really easy, but we’re committed to what we’re doing and to the children in this community.”

“Staff could be making much more money elsewhere than they’re making here, but they’re committed to the cause,” adds Smith, who calls Parker “a younger version of Mother Teresa.”

The dedication is part of Frontline Outreach’s belief in encouraging self-reliance over government handouts, which only serve to deepen the welfare cycle for poverty-stricken, inner-city families. “The welfare system is set up to keep (people) in poverty,” says Parker. “It doesn’t offer them any hope. It keeps as second-class citizens isolated into certain areas.”

The center has run into some obstacles in trying to solicit funding from local churches, however, because of unease over the fact that an organization run by white people is working with blacks. “Why can’t we just help the children?” asks Parker.

She likens Frontline Outreach to a Noah’s Ark in inner Orlando. “We help (young people) with their homework, feed them, hug them, kiss them and encourage them.  We teach them a lot of things—the Golden Rule, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, being good and kind.”

“When the kids come in after school, you should see the stress that’s on their faces,” she adds. “It’s like they been some place which has robbed them of the life inside of them.”

On the pro-life front, Parker handles about 1,000 crisis pregnancies a year or about one-quarter of all unwed teenage pregnancies in the Orlando area. This often means she often works 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. “It’s a big job,” says Smith.

“Our teen pregnancy rate has continuously gone up, as has poverty,” says Parker.

She blames the infamous U.S. Supreme court Toe vs. Wade decision a opening the floodgates not only to abortion, but also to numerous other sexual problems now plaguing black communities.  “You can go back to Roe vs. Wade and see what that has done to deteriorate people’s self-worth and their value,” she says.  “The hardest hit are the people in the inner cities.”

It all goes back to the womb,” she adds.  We don’t  see our children as blessings anymore, but as curses and burdens.”

Parker says she found it interesting that an abortion clinic was located close to Orlando’s black community when she began Frontline Outreach’s crisis pregnancy program in 1985.  “This is what’s not being told to black communities—how close abortion clinics are to them.”  she says.

They target minority communities…it all goes back to (Planned Parenthood Founder) Margaret Sanger.  It’s what she wanted from the beginning.”

She says Frontline Outreach has been very successful in having teenage girls avoid repeated unwed pregnancies and in encouraging young men to accept their responsibilities.  “We promote the father being involved in the live of the mother and baby.  We’re building srtong families. That’s very important.”

Smith says although Frontline Outreach has received requests to start similar centre in other American cities he wants to make sure the Orlando location is secure before he begins work elsewhere.  “You can’t build another ship until your own is floating well.” he says.

But Parker says he would like to see Frontline Outreach replicated throughout the U.S.  “I would like to see this model across the nation, but not just the crisis pregnancy centre.  We need to go way beyond that and start providing true services and commitments.