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    Mothers and Children First

    ASAP, a new K of C pro-life initiative, encourages councils to step up support for young moms and children in need

    By Columbia staff 7/1/2022
    Illinois Knights speak with a mother and her children during a delivery of baby supplies at the Pregnancy Care Center of Springfield. Illinois State Right to Life Chairman Ty Simmons (left) is pictured with Chuck Muller (kneeling) and Darrell Roll, program director and life director, respectively, of Sangamon Valley Council 5754 in Petersburg. Photo by Terry Farmer

     

    In early June, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly announced the ASAP (Aid and Support After Pregnancy) program, a new Orderwide initiative to strengthen K of C assistance for pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes.

    Over the past two decades, such organizations have grown substantially in both number and in the services they provide, and Knights of Columbus councils are already strong allies with many of the more than 2,000 pregnancy resource centers in the United States. In addition to placing ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers through the Ultrasound Initiative — more than 1,550 since the flagship program launched in 2009 — Knights served more than 1.7 million volunteer hours and gave over $18 million in funds and supplies to pregnancy centers and maternity homes from 2018 to 2021.

    The new ASAP program, scheduled to launch July 1, will build on that support: For every $500 that a council donates to a qualified pregnancy resource center or maternity home — up to $2,000 in the 2022-23 fraternal year — the Supreme Council will add $100, a 20% increase.

    The announcement came as citizens and lawmakers awaited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. If Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the country, were to be overturned by Dobbs, “pregnancy resource centers will take center stage in the struggle for life,” Supreme Knight Kelly said June 10, addressing the Organizational Meeting of State Deputies.

    “Repeal of Roe won’t be the end of abortion in America,” the supreme knight said. “But it might be the beginning of the end. … In a post-Roe world, we need to be there for mothers and children. They will need our help more than ever — so let’s make the ASAP program a top priority.”

    Here are just a handful of recent examples of how local councils have been working with pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes to serve women and their children before and after birth.

    ‘ANYTHING WE CAN DO, WE DO’

    The need for diapers is a constant at Hands of Mercy Everywhere (H.O.M.E.), a residence for pregnant and parenting teens and their children in Belleview, Fla. So are the biannual diaper deliveries from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Council 13300 in nearby Wildwood, which has collected diapers and other baby supplies for H.O.M.E. since 2010.

    Donations to the council drive have increased substantially in the last three years, said program director Mike Grindel, partly because the Knights began collecting in person after Masses at St. Vincent de Paul Parish instead of using a drop box. In 2021-2022, the council brought in about $23,000 in supplies, as well as $9,000 in monetary donations.

    Helping with the spring delivery April 28, Grand Knight Bill Wirtz said that he appreciates the chance to glimpse the impact of the council’s work: to meet some of the mothers who live in the big, homey residence; to see the toddlers who will wear those diapers playing in the yard. At the same time, he is happy to do whatever is needed behind the scenes.

    “A lot of our guys are veterans, and military guys always talk about the pointy end of the spear,” Wirtz said. “That’s where H.O.M.E. is. They’re at the front line. Sometimes Knights are out there on the point, and sometimes we’re way back in support. But you need the whole thing — so anything we can do, we do.”

    The young mothers giving birth and raising children in difficult circumstances are the ones who deserve recognition, he added: “The fact that these women have chosen life when they could have gone another direction speaks volumes. So our support of that effort really is where we’re at.”

    FAMILY DINNER TIME

    The dinner served before each parenting class at Shady Grove Pregnancy Center in Gaithersburg, Md., is more than a nice bonus for the new mothers and fathers in attendance; in a way, it’s part of the curriculum.

    “A family meal is an important time for connection,” said Holly Mullen, the center’s parenting program coordinator. “It’s a time for building relationships. So we are modeling that for the young men and women in our class.”

    For more than a decade, Our Lady of Fatima Council 6901 in Barnesville has helped make that lesson possible by coordinating and delivering dinner to the four parenting courses offered at Shady Grove each year. The classes, aimed at first-time parents, cover topics both philosophical and practical: family mission, nutrition, budgeting, labor and delivery, breastfeeding, infant safety and more.

    On June 15, six mothers and five fathers enjoyed the lasagna, salad and cupcakes provided by Past Grand Knight David Horton and Father Kevin P. O’Reilly, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Barnesville and council chaplain. When class was over, parents who had attended all of the course’s six classes received a new crib, car seat and diaper bag. Those who had earned points by completing other goals — for example, visiting the hospital where they would give birth — could redeem them for other equipment at the center’s baby boutique.

    Council 6901’s support for Shady Grove Pregnancy Center began with their ongoing meal delivery but has expanded over the years. The council provided the center several appliances, including a refrigerator, to improve its kitchen, and Knights also donate diapers, clothes and other supplies.

    Grand Knight Dave Bivans noted that, in a culture where unborn children are too often seen as “a disposable problem,” pregnancy centers like Shady Grove help give women the courage to choose life and the support they need to thrive.

    “It’s a gift to have a child, but raising a child is a struggle,” he said. “And we all need help.”

    Grand Knight Randy Fritz of St. Peter Catholic Church Council 11514 in Monument, Colo., and other parishioners look through some of the baby clothes collected for Life Network pregnancy resource centers from participants in a Walk for Life on June 4. Photo by Spirit Juice Studios

     

    MOVING MOUNTAINS FOR MOMS

    Pro-life organizations in the Colorado Springs area can turn to the Knights of St. Peter Catholic Church Council 11514 in Monument, Colo., when they need help serving young mothers. Last month alone, the council was instrumental in coordinating two events — a Walk for Life and a pie and ice cream social — that together raised more than $30,000 for pregnancy resource centers and a maternity home in Colorado Springs, 20 miles to the south.

    On June 4, Knights led 100 participants on a 2-mile Walk for Life to benefit Life Network, which runs three pregnancy resource centers in Colorado Springs. The parish-based event, organized with strong support from the council, is an extension of the larger Walk for Life held annually in Colorado Springs since 1987.

    A week later, Council 11514 co-sponsored a pie and ice cream social to raise funds for a new Mater Filius maternity home in Colorado Springs.

    Mater Filius is a network of more than 20 maternity homes in North and Central America. Construction on the new Colorado Springs residence, which will provide transitional housing for up to 10 families, began in April.

    “The support program at Mater Filius is tremendous,” said Grand Knight Randy Fritz. “They offer counseling, find jobs for the mothers, and even offer daycare for other children they may have. I’ve never seen anything like it. Being a veteran, I’ve seen the support programs for veterans, and they don’t even come close.”

    Tony Schmitz, executive director of Mater Filius and a member of Council 11514, echoes his grand knight’s enthusiasm for the home.

    “This home will affirm the dignity of the mother under any circumstance, and provide food, shelter, clothing, hope and affirmation of the choice to keep her child,” Schmitz said. “Ultimately, it will create an environment where these women can grow and mature into the women God wants them to be.”

    BEYOND THE FINISH LINE

    Members of Our Lady of Batavia Council 11728 in Batavia, N.Y., know there’s no finish line when it comes to supporting life — except, however, at the end of a 5K benefit race. The council has been a longtime supporter of Run Baby Run, an annual 5K to benefit the nearby All Babies Cherished Pregnancy Assistance Center, held this year on June 4. In addition to council sponsorship, Knights volunteer at the race, guiding runners throughout the route and providing them with water.

    “The Knights do a wonderful job supporting our organization,” said Alexandra Andrews, a member of the center’s board of directors and an abortion survivor who was born in Russia. “Their goal is to help women, children and families, and it’s great to work alongside each other for this purpose.”

    For more than 20 years, the council has held an annual baby bottle drive from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day to raise funds for All Babies Cherished, in addition to collecting donations of diapers and other supplies.

    “Whenever the center needs some extra support, the Knights step in and help out,” said Grand Knight Michael Jackson, who also serves on the center’s board.

    The Knights’ efforts help All Babies Cherished provide resources and mentorship to many new parents.

    The center offers pregnancy and parenting classes, as well as classes on life skills such as budgeting and time management that help parents become well-rounded caretakers as they prepare for nurturing their new or growing families. Staff members also help parents complete paperwork so they can receive crucial aid benefits.

    Jackson noted that these classes and programs are not only beneficial to pregnant women but also to first-time fathers.

    “By supporting the entire family, you’re providing a better environment for that child to be raised,” he said. “It’s important for young men to know they’re welcome.”

    Past Grand Knight John Marshek of Our Lady of Batavia Council 11728 receives baby bottles full of change from a family at St. Mary’s Church in Batavia, N.Y. For the past 20 years, Council 11728 has conducted an annual baby bottle drive from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day in support of All Babies Cherished Pregnancy Assistance Center. Photo by Alexandra Andrews

     

    COMMUNITY AMBASSADORS

    The baby clothes and diapers delivered by members of Sangamon Valley Council 5754 in Petersburg, Ill., to the Pregnancy Care Center of Springfield on June 8 will not stay there long.

    “We are not hoarders,” laughed Christi Clifton, the center’s counselor. “Anything that comes in — I can’t wait to call a mom and have them pick up those items for their baby.”

    Donated by parishioners of St. Peter and Holy Family churches, the supplies were collected during Council 5754’s “May Baby Shower,” held annually for more than 15 years. This year’s drive brought in approximately $1,000 worth of items, as well as $500 in donations, for the center and its clients.

    The Petersburg Knights also support a second pregnancy resource center in Springfield, First Step Women’s Center. A few years ago, they donated about $30,000 to help First Step purchase a van for its mobile ultrasound unit, and they run a baby bottle fundraiser for the organization each fall.

    Past Grand Knight Darrell Roll, the council’s life director, assisted with the June 8 delivery to Pregnancy Care Center. Though he has been working with its staff for over a decade, he was “more impressed than ever” with them after observing them help a young family visiting that day. Their assistance goes beyond baby items, he noted: “They literally open their refrigerator and give out the contents.”

    Having such support can make all the difference for a young woman with an unplanned pregnancy, Roll added. “Once those mothers realize the support is there,” he said, “it takes a heavy burden off them, and they can decide to go forward with having their baby.”

    The appreciation between the pregnancy resource center and the Knights of Columbus is mutual.

    “They are ambassadors for us,” Clifton said. “They are in the community, saying, ‘Hey, do you know about this agency that helps babies?’ We appreciate them getting the word out there so much.”

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