October 4, 2019

‘They don’t let you fail’: Pregnancy Care Center celebrates 30 years of helping parents, ‘leaning on God’

Briana Pennington holds her daughter during a banquet on Sept. 12 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Pregnancy Care Center of Southeast Indiana, located in Lawrenceburg. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Briana Pennington holds her daughter during a banquet on Sept. 12 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Pregnancy Care Center of Southeast Indiana, located in Lawrenceburg. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

CLEVES, Ohio—Melanie Bird was invited last year to meet a toddler. His great-grandmother had been caring for him, but was not longer able to do so.

“I was just going to meet him,” said Bird, who is 37. “He put his little arms up when he saw me for the first time and said, ‘Mommy.’ For me, it was history after that—I’ve been Mommy ever since.”

Bird and her husband Leslie, who obtained guardianship of the little boy this year, were overjoyed—and in sudden need of help.

They turned to the Christian-based Pregnancy Care Center of Southeast Indiana (PCC) in Lawrenceburg, where they received diapers, pull-ups, clothes—and so much more.

“They’re an extension of my family,” Bird said. “I just finished parenting classes and earned a car seat. In our last class we made vision boards, what your goals are and what you want to do in life. It was positive and uplifting.

“It’s been a journey. My life is changed for the better.”

Bird is one of the thousands of women, men and babies the PCC has helped in its three decades as the only organization of its kind serving a five-county area in southeastern Indiana.

“It’s all about life and saving those babies,” said PPC board president Jane Noel, a member of St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg. “Pregnancy Care Center is here to help these young girls, or even older women who find they’re pregnant … . They have a place to go where people will love them and accept them, work with them and teach them, and give them support.”

Doubling in size, tripling in space

Dan and Cheryl McMullen shared the PCC’s history at a banquet fundraiser on Sept. 12 in Cleves, Ohio, not far from Lawrenceburg, to celebrate the

30th anniversary of the organization they founded in 1989.

It started in the basement of the retirement home the couple owned and operated, said Cheryl.

“People would call, and we’d have to ask if they were calling for the retirement home or the pregnancy center,” she said to a burst of laughter from the crowd of roughly 880 people.

As the PCC grew, it moved to a building on Main Street in Lawrenceburg. Next came the not-so-successful “bat house”—a large home that ended up being so infested with bats and mold that it was eventually condemned.

From there, the organization moved to its current location. They began by leasing one-third of the office building’s second floor. In 2016, they expanded by taking over an adjacent office space, and as of this year, PCC now leases the entire second floor of the office building.

The expansion was needed, said Pregnancy Care Center executive director Kayla Griffin in an interview with The Criterion.

“Comparing our 2017 numbers with what we have now [for 2018], most of our statistics have doubled,” she said.

‘Leaning on God’

The organization operates through the efforts of four staff members, 30 volunteers—and God.

“We’re always leaning on God and seeing where he wants the organization to go,” said Griffin. “I’m the director, but every day I have to be in constant touch with God, asking, ‘What is your goal today?’ not, ‘What do I want to do?’ ”

She said she’s seen God “placing his hand on this organization” throughout its history.

“Thirty years ago, it was just in a basement offering pregnancy tests and handing out diapers. Now we’re doing that, plus ultrasounds, a parenting program, a men’s program. … I think God has brought on pieces at a time.”

One of those “pieces” recently changed formats. The parenting classes used to consist of “putting a woman in a room and having her watch a DVD,” said Griffin. Now the classes are taught in group sessions.

“It creates an environment of saying, ‘We want more of a relationship with you. We care about you and want to get to know you. We want to make sure we are setting you up for success as a parent,’ ” Griffin explained.

The Dadhood Program “teaches the men how to be better dads,” she said. “And it’s all faith-based, so it looks at how do you be better dads through Christ.”

Keynote speaker Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood facility director-turned pro-life advocate, lauded the effort to create better fathers.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am about your men’s program,” she told the crowd. “I believe one of the solutions to abolishing abortion is fatherhood.”

‘All about life and saving those babies’

Within the Pregnancy Care Center’s five-county region are several Catholic parishes, including All Saints in Dearborn County. Father Jonathan Meyer, the parish’s pastor, came to show his support of the organization at the Sept. 12 banquet.

“It’s a tremendous ecumenical, interfaith-supported resource that we as Catholics support,” he said. “It’s great for us because we’re able to be actively engaged in the pro-life ministry and

pro-life cause,” a fact made evident by the nearly 20 tables filled with All Saints parishioners at the banquet.

Father Benjamin Syberg attended the event as well, with many members from the two parishes he serves as pastor—St. Lawrence in Lawrenceburg and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Aurora.

“When I moved to the area [in 2018], I was delighted to find that people here just know they have to be involved in the fight against abortion—that was just ingrained before I got here,” he said.

‘They don’t let you fail’

In her keynote address, Johnson praised the efforts of the pregnancy center and those who support it.

“Lives are on the line,” she said emphatically. “If you could see what I’ve seen, … if you could hear the jokes made [by abortion doctors and workers] about the innocent children and their mothers, … there would be a fire in your soul that could never be extinguished.”

Johnson noted how people often tell her they’re praying for an end to abortion.

“God hates evil,” she said. “You don’t have to convince God that abortion is bad. God will end abortion by using us as his hands and feet, by us speaking on behalf of the least of these.

“Instead of asking God to end abortion, let’s ask God to break our hearts for whatever breaks his. If you pray that, you will be devoted, and that will be what it takes to end abortion.”

Johnson said the goal of the fight against abortion “is to make it unthinkable, so a woman never shadows the door of a place that will take the life of her child.”

In such a world, perhaps more women would instead seek the help of places like the Pregnancy Care Center.

“They care,” said Briana Pennington as her 3-month-old daughter Araeya cooed in her arms. She said the PCC has “helped turn my life around, really. They’ve given me support, and opened the door to meeting good people who are trying to seek the same thing I am.

“Throughout it all, I’ve been building my relationship with God and trying to be better, and they don’t let you fail.”

(Pregnancy Care Center of Southeast Indiana is located at 62 Doughty Road in Lawrenceburg. For more information on the organization or to donate, go to pregnancylawrenceburg.com.)

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