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A Step Ahead Chattanooga contributed photo / From left are A Step Ahead Chattanooga staff members Susan Vandergriff, Michelle Dunn-Loveless, Alissa Browning-Couch, Rachel Schulson and Tia Baker.

In response to an explosion in the number of requests for aid provided by A Step Ahead Chattanooga, the nonprofit is hosting its first fundraiser Wednesday, Oct. 16.

The organization serves women in 11 Tennessee counties, providing information about all methods of birth control and ensuring free access to long-term, reversible methods, such as implants and intrauterine devices, aka IUDs.

As a prevention-only agency, A Step Ahead does not refer clients to abortion services.

IUDs and implants are effective for three, five or 10 years, depending on the device selected. When the user has it removed, she quickly returns to her baseline fertility, according to the organization.

Women who contact A Step Ahead for birth control are connected to a provider in their area, such as the Hamilton County Health Department, and A Step Ahead provides all funding not covered by other means, such as the woman's private insurance if she has it, said Chris Berryman, director of development and marketing for the organization.

some text A Step Ahead Chattanooga contributed photo / Providing information at events about all methods of birth control is among the services provided by A Step Ahead Chattanooga. The organization is holding its first fundraiser, Contraception Matters: The Art of Empowerment Wednesday, Oct. 16.

The average cost per woman is $500, he said.

Requests for service have increased year over year — roughly 162% from 2016 to 2018. As of last month, A Step Ahead had served 3,000 women since it was founded in 2014.

Based on the increase in requests, the organization applied for and received a matching grant from The Elsa and Peter Soderberg Charitable Foundation. During the grant period, which runs through March 15, 2020, new and increased gifts from Hamilton County donors will be matched dollar for dollar, and new dollars raised in 10 surrounding Tennessee counties will be matched two dollars for every dollar raised up to $200,000.

A Step Ahead's previous events have revolved around community education, but Contraception Matters: The Art of Empowerment is its first fundraiser, Berryman said. The purpose is partly to bring in new dollars to take advantage of the grant, but also to bring awareness to the organization and its mission.

"Our goal is to help [women] live life on their own terms by educating them on the benefits of long-term, reversible birth control," he said.

The Art of Empowerment features a showcase and auction of works by local female artists to benefit A Step Ahead Chattanooga. In addition to the art auction, the event features Atlanta's DJ Sphynx along with beer, wine, whiskey and light bites.

Tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased at astepaheadchattanooga.com. The event takes place from 5:30-8 p.m. at Chattanooga Whiskey, 890 Riverfront Parkway.

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.

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