From the St. Gianna’s Place web site, as the agency moves closer to purchasing a building that will become a safe harbor for pregnant women in need of housing: St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Derry, NH is hosting a spaghetti-dinner fundraiser for St. Gianna’s Place on October 28th. Anyone interested in helping with the fundraiser can learn more at a volunteer evening on August 22 at St. Mark’s parish in Londonderry, NH.
“A Safe Harbor for Mother and Child.” Step by step, St. Gianna’s Place is on the way to becoming a shelter for pregnant and parenting women. Administrative details are in place: a board of directors; nonprofit tax status. Now comes the work of acquiring a house, most likely in Londonderry, New Hampshire.
St. Gianna’s is taking shape one step at a time, guided by board members and an increasing number of supporters. One of those supporters, Lynn, hosted me and several other women for coffee recently so we could meet Maria Szemplinski of the St. Gianna’s Place board.
Maria talked about the planned home and about the people whose vision has brought the project this far. She told us about the need for more shelter beds in our area: “our Calcutta is right here,” she said, evoking Mother Teresa. She talked about other shelters in the region and how their staffs have been generous in sharing their advice and experience with the St. Gianna’s team.
So what’s next? We asked Maria what we could do.
One obvious answer: fundraising. That wasn’t what Maria led with, though. She asked us to consider what our gifts might be.
I knew some of my fellow guests slightly, and had met others for the first time that morning: a student active in pro-life work at her school, people with experience working with at-risk youth, an adoptive parent. These were women with full lives, hardly in need of another project, but all of them eager to offer practical assistance to pregnant and parenting women. I was in a room full of potential mentors and teachers.
Our hostess was meeting one of St. Gianna’s most urgent needs by welcoming us for an information session. Spreading the word is critical to attracting the material support the project needs. Maria and her fellow board members welcome opportunities to speak with any person or group who’d like to learn more.
Maria made it clear that even at this stage, the St. Gianna’s board is on the lookout for people with the skills to work with women who want educational guidance, job training, and parenting skills.
Eventually, it will be time to furnish and equip the house that will serve as the shelter. There will be ongoing needs for food, baby supplies, and building maintenance.
There will be – there is – work for everyone who wants to make the shelter happen and help it thrive.
Learn more about St. Gianna’s Place, about the woman whose life and example inspired the project, and how to contact the St. Gianna’s Place team for more information. Watch the St. Gianna’s Place Facebook page for updates.
As the blog’s 5-year anniversary month winds up, I’ll take one last look back. It would be easy to reflect on things left undone, such as the failure to pass this or that pro-life law. Not today, though. This is about good news from the past half-decade. Just a few highlights.
No buffer zones. There are no abortion-related buffer zones yet in New Hampshire. Abortion advocates in both parties whisked an anti-First-Amendment law onto the books in 2014, and they have yet to use it.
While the so-called buffer zones could be imposed any minute now, the fact that none are thus far in place can be credited in large part to the New Hampshire residents who went to court as soon as the law was signed, with support from the Alliance Defending Freedom legal team. New Hampshire residents are ready to step up again if ever the buffer zone law is used.
New Hampshire has a law banning partial-birth abortion. That’s a big deal. This is a state where the right to life is given short shrift in the State House, to the point where even a women’s-health measure like abortion statistics is rejected time and again.
It took enormous effort to pass the bill in 2012 over John Lynch’s veto. You may recall that there was a 19-5 GOP majority in the state senate that year. The majority leader managed to persuade all 19 to support the partial-birth ban, whereupon the minority leader took to the Senate floor to compliment the majority leader for his masterful handling of the bill. As I said at the time,
…wait a minute here. Why was it such a big deal that a Republican majority leader got all of his caucus to support a bill to ban an abortion method that shades into infanticide? What is so controversial about that? Who had to be persuaded? (And why does the Democratic party defend partial-birth abortion?)
But I digress. The partial-birth ban was and is a good thing.
A new shelter for homeless pregnant women is coming to New Hampshire, as an existing one celebrates 30 years of service. I recently reported on the launching of the crowdfunding effort in support of St. Gianna’s Place. Over in Greenland, New Hampshire, New Generation has just turned 30.
These are grassroots projects by New Hampshire people who see neighbors in need and then work to serve them.
Pregnancy care centers are expanding their scope. Every New Hampshire pregnancy care worker I’ve met over the past five years has told me about services that extend far past crisis intervention and pregnancy tests. In fact, it’s time for me to re-name the blog’s “crisis pregnancy services” page.
Ultrasounds (and thank you, Knights of Columbus). Parenting classes. Clothing, baby needs, furniture and car seats. Referrals for services like housing. These aren’t add-ons. They’re integrated into a center’s mission.
On the national scene, mobile ultrasound units have come a long way since this blog’s first post. To mention just one project, Save the Storks sent one of their “Stork Buses” to Manchester last year to demonstrate each unit’s capability to support a pregnancy care center. (A Stork Bus will soon visit Keene.) More than a hundred Stork Buses are now in use. Not bad for an agency that hired its first employee in 2013.
As a Save the Storks representative said, “We show up with resources and support. It brings hope into darkness, it brings light into darkness.”
Finally, another national note: I can’t look at pro-life cultural progress over the past five years without mentioning Abby Johnson. If she had done nothing but publish Unplanned, I’d be in her debt. She has since done much more. This is what can be done in five years.
- As a former Planned Parenthood manager, Abby Johnson learned when she left PP that she faced financial, legal, and spiritual challenges on the “outside.” She founded And Then There Were None to support other people in her position. The ATTWN team has so far served hundreds of former abortion workers.
- She co-wrote The Walls Are Talking, using her own high profile to draw attention to the life stories of former abortion workers.
- The first Pro-Life Women’s Conference in 2016 was her brainchild – “can you believe it took 43 years to do this?” She brought together women from a variety of backgrounds – religious and secular, political and non-political – so that we could learn from each other and bring some new lessons home.
- In every speech she makes, she tells about her Planned Parenthood experiences. She challenges PP’s “3%” claim and tells about its abortion quotas. She challenges abortion opponents who fail to see the need to build relationships with abortion workers. She calls for an increase in peaceful pro-life witness outside abortion facilities.
Good work from good people: spread the good news, and then go make some good news of your own.
At a recent New Hampshire event, I was pleased to see former state representative Laura Gandia, who was there promoting an exciting new project: a home for pregnant women in need of housing and other services. It will be called St. Gianna’s Place, and if all goes well, it will be located in Londonderry, NH.
The administrative framework is in place: board of directors, nonprofit status, and so forth. Now comes the next step: acquiring a house. That’s where you can help. Crowdfunding is underway, dedicated to the purchase of an appropriate building.
Please use and share this Go Fund Me link: https://www.gofundme.com/st-giannas-for-women-in-crisis
I hope to interview a St. Gianna’s board member soon. Until then, I’m happy to spread the word about their work to bring direct services to pregnant women. As co-founder Liz Neville says, “We are grateful for any donation amount as it will bring us that much closer to helping women and their unborn children live in a safe and nurturing place.”