$800,000 to be used by three non-profit groups

By Chris Roberts

Globe Staff Writer

An $800,000 federal grant will be used by three Southwest Missouri non-profit organizations to promote abstinence over the next year.

LifeChoices Pregnancy Center, based out of Joplin, is one of the three members of Tri-State ROCK (Reaching Our Communities and Kids), the organization receiving the grant.

LifeChoices will be getting $400,000. Ambassador Community Outreach in Lamar and BARCEDA in Barton, Cedar and Dade counties will receive $200,000 each.

BARCEDA teaches a sexual-assault prevention class and Ambassador Community Outreach offers youth development courses that include mentoring and community service projects.

The grant is provided by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services and is intended to help develop and implement an abstinence education program for teens in an 18-county region.

According to Kim Conroy, LifeChoices executive director, the grant provides an opportunity to expand programs. Conroy said the $400,000 given to LifeChoices will be used to expand the organization's Virtuous Reality program.

Conroy said Virtuous Reality is a 10-day course taught by trained presenters to students during the school year.

It has been taught for the past five years to grades six through college freshman, and will this year be expanded to another 12 Missouri counties and three counties each in Kansas and Oklahoma.

"This is good timing for this with all of the schools looking at so many cuts," Conroy said. "We provide students accurate information on sexuality issues that they need to learn to deal with."

Conroy said the funding comes at a critical time for LifeChoices because a previous grant, provided by Title V Welfare Reform for abstinence-only education, ended in May.

The new grant will help with Virtuous Reality, but Conroy said LifeChoices will still depend heavily on donations and fund-raising to help provide the other services the organization provides, like the local medical clinic, the outreach to at-risk women or the in-house counseling to pregnant teens.

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