Sara Patterson

My day job is being CEO of Care Net Pregnancy Center of Dane County, which supports programs designed to help women and men who are dealing with an unexpected pregnancy.

Having experienced my own unexpected pregnancy at a very young age, I know firsthand that the support of others was vital to my success. Author Malcolm Gladwell talked about the myth of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We don’t. Our success doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it happens because people come around and support and help us through difficult times.

Care Net operates several programs, and all of our services are provided free of charge.

First Care Clinic is an accredited medical facility that offers pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and STI testing and treatment for women. We can provide express BadgerCare enrollment which allows women to access prenatal care.  When they walk out our door, they’re set up to have a better outcome for themselves and their baby.

We know access to transportation is a huge barrier to getting services. That’s why our clinic includes a mobile unit that goes out to four locations throughout Dane County, making it convenient for women to access our services no matter where they live.

The Elizabeth House provides housing to pregnant women who need a safe place to make a new start. Many of the moms are chronically homeless or in unsafe housing. While they’re with us, we don’t just provide room and board, we help them build the resources and skills they need to be successful.

These women need social resources, emotional resources. Some are struggling with mental health issues and many are from backgrounds that included verbal, physical, mental or sexual abuse. Our staff operates from a trauma-informed perspective.

We help our moms understand what healthy relationships look like. We also help them gain practical skills—time management, how to build financial resources, how to prepare healthy meals.

If a woman doesn’t have a high school diploma, one of their requirements to “graduate” from The Elizabeth House is getting that.

We also help our moms navigate housing. If they have past evictions, we help them clear their records. If they have a low credit score, we explain what that is and help them to improve it.

All moms—and dads!—can participate in our parenting classes—even if they’re not residents at The Elizabeth House. These include safe sleep, CPR, parenting skills and many other topics. And these classes are part of an incentive-based program: Parents can earn “points” to shop in our boutique to get all the supplies they need for their new baby.

A few years back we added a program for fathers because we recognized how critical it was for young men to get support and learn how to be great dads.

Eagle Harbor Apartments is another way we help meet critical housing needs in the community. This is workforce housing for 36 families and was designed to help people like our moms who struggle to afford housing in Dane County.

Because of my own experiences as a single mom who went through a pregnancy alone, I know how isolating and lonely that can feel. It’s why I’m so excited to work for an organization that provides a home and support for women who face the challenges I did.

My most memorable caffeine experience is the Tasters Choice coffee I discovered when I was about 13. I just fell in love with it—it tasted incredible to me. I remember figuring out how to add just the right amount of cream and sugar to make a 13-year-old happy and sitting down to enjoy it with a book. It was the best experience in the whole world.

About 10 years ago, I thought I’d try another Tasters Choice, fully expecting it to still be amazing. It wasn’t!

My current caffeine of choice is Gevalia coffee.

My favorite place for caffeine is having a cup of coffee that was made in my own coffee pot. I drink it while I’m doing my morning devotion.

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with fall into two categories.

If I were picking someone I could never meet, it would be Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was a huge influence in my life. Growing up in a dysfunctional home without good role models, the Ingalls became my role model of a healthy family.

They overcame so much hardship but worked together, loved each other throughout and stayed positive. That was such a powerful model for me.

I got to visit her house in Rocky Ridge once. The kitchen was tiny! I can just imagine sitting on her porch and sharing a cup of coffee.

If I were to pick someone living, I’d like to have a cup of coffee with someone who needs someone to talk to. Just some everyday person who was dealing with something and needed a listening ear. 

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine:  This isn’t exactly a problem, but I’d think it’s good for us to sit down and drink a lot of coffee with people who don’t think exactly like we do. We can try to understand their perspective and why they think or feel the way they do. If we spend a little time with someone, things become a lot clearer.

It makes me think of a book by Ann Tyler, A Patchwork Planet, which explores the way we’re influenced by things that happen to us.

Too often we judge people so quickly, without having the slightest idea what’s behind their words or actions. If we tried to be more open-minded and nonjudgmental, I think we’d see people differently and come to different conclusions.