December 13, 2019

Fire affects two Indianapolis pro-life organizations, but the commitment to continue the work prevails

This overhead drone shot on Dec. 1 shows damage to an office building on the northwest side of Indianapolis that occurred late on Nov. 30. Two pro-life organizations were affected. 1st Choice for Women, which offers free peer-counseling, pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, is located below the second-floor area where the fire started. Magnificat Family Medicine is located on the second floor to the right of the fire damage. (Submitted photo by Colin Landberg/Pike Township Fire Department)

This overhead drone shot on Dec. 1 shows damage to an office building on the northwest side of Indianapolis that occurred late on Nov. 30. Two pro-life organizations were affected. 1st Choice for Women, which offers free peer-counseling, pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, is located below the second-floor area where the fire started. Magnificat Family Medicine is located on the second floor to the right of the fire damage. (Submitted photo by Colin Landberg/Pike Township Fire Department)

By Natalie Hoefer

A building fire on Indianapolis’ northwest side on Nov. 30 caused severe damage to two Catholic-founded pro-life entities: Magnificat Family Medicine, LLC, and 1st Choice for Women pregnancy resource center.

No one was injured in the two-alarm late-night fire that took about two hours to extinguish. But due to the extent of damage, the suites of both the medical practice and the ministry are expected to be declared a total loss.

At the time of publication, the cause of the fire was still under investigation, according to the Pike Township Fire Department. Their report estimates property damage and content losses at $1.25 million.

‘It was surreal’

According to its website, Magnificat Family Medicine is “a Christ-centered family health care center” with “a focus on the whole person—mind, body, and spirit,” using “Jesus the Divine Physician as guide and example.”

The site notes founder Dr. Casey Delcoco, who is a member with her husband at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, “chose the practice name … to honor Christ and dedicate her practice to glorifying and serving Him.”

The practice was located on the west side of the same floor on which the fire started.

“The fire was put out right before it reached our waiting room,” said practice manager Lori Pluchar.

She saw the interior of the practice while retrieving items to continue seeing patients in the temporary space offered to them at the nearby Women’s Care Center.

“It looks like it will be a total loss,” Pluchar said. “It was so weird. The lights are off, the floors are all soaked, and 100 percent of our stuff was completely black [from smoke and soot]. It was surreal. … Everything was touched.”

She noted that Magnificat Family Medicine was “already looking at moving because of patient demand. We really didn’t have enough space to accommodate our needs. So, in a way, we’re grateful for the opportunity to move into a larger space so much sooner than we expected.”

That time might have already come. The practice started seeing patients this week in suite 416 at 8240 Naab Road in Indianapolis next to St. Vincent Women’s Hospital, where Delcoco delivers babies. The hope is for this site to become the practice’s permanent location.

“We chose suite 416 as our number because the feast of St. Bernadette is on April 16,” said Pluchar. Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France, in 1858, and provided a spring of water there to which many miraculous healings have been attributed.

“We continue to ask the Lord to heal our patients through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes,” said Pluchar.

‘Probably need to start from scratch’

1st Choice for Women, a ministry of Great Lakes Gabriel Project (also known as The Gabriel Project), is a pregnancy resource center offering free peer-counseling, pregnancy tests and ultrasounds.

When The Gabriel Project president and director Linda Kile visited the building to check on 1st Choice for Women’s two first-floor suites, she said she was “astonished that there wasn’t actual fire damage in our suite right under where fire was.”

“Everything is very wet,” she said. “Every day it gets colder in there because there’s no power.”

And after Pike Township Fire Department discovered hot spots in the building on Dec. 6, things got even wetter.

The majority of the organization’s inventory “is furniture, plus the ultrasound machine and a really nice paper-folding machine someone donated,” said Kile.

She is still waiting on a technician to evaluate the ultrasound machine, a task complicated by the lack of power.

“From what I understand, anytime medical equipment is involved in a water damage situation they write it off [as a loss]—you just don’t want to take a chance,” Kile noted.

She said the owner of the salvage business working on the building told her he felt that the space “was probably going to be a total loss.”

The ministry’s future plans are still uncertain.

“At this point in time, we’d like to be able to reopen,” said Kile. “It’s probably going to be many months before the building will be able to be re-inhabited. … At this point, it sounds like we’ll probably need to start from scratch.”

Yet Kile spoke of having “a huge sense of peace and comfort” as she clutched her rosary and walked through the damaged suites.

“We’ve been pondering if it’s time to move closer to one of the other [two] abortion centers” in Indianapolis, she said.

Since Women’s Care Center opened next to the Planned Parenthood abortion facility not far from 1st Choice for Women, Kile explained, “our numbers have dropped. We’re still helping women, but we don’t get the ones who change their mind at Planned Parenthood” with the help of sidewalk counselors.

“This [fire] perhaps has opened up a possibility for us, or perhaps made a decision easier for us to make. We’re still not sure. This is a time to contemplate and start investigating that option.”

Prayers and gratitude

Both Kile and Pluchar were quick to note their gratitude for Catholic building owner Dan Baldini and their call for prayers for the office building’s tenants.

“Dan is just a wonderful man,” said Pluchar. “We’re so grateful for the space we’ve had. As soon as we’d expand, then we’d need to expand again practically the next week! He accommodated us so quickly.”

Kile noted that Baldini, who operates Polaris Real Estate in an office in the affected building, “is the reason we’re in that building.”

About 10 years ago, she said, then-Gabriel Project president Eileen Hartman spread the word that she was looking for an office near the city’s northwest side Planned Parenthood abortion facility.

“Dan and his family reached out to her,” said Kile. He asked her and her “strong, powerful prayer warriors” to pray for his success in purchasing the building. In return, Baldini said he and his family would offer space to 1st Choice for Women rent-free.

“His family is so pro-life,” Kile said.

She asked for prayers for him and his family.

“This has hit him very hard and personally,” she said. As both a landlord to multiple tenants and a business owner in the building, the fire has been a “double whammy” for him. She said the normally “jovial, happy” man “looked haggard” when she saw him days after the fire.

“My heart goes out to him,” she said.

It also goes out to the building’s tenants.

“Gabriel Project is blessed in that we’re operating a ministry out of that building,” Kile said. “All of our fellow tenants are making their livelihood, including Dr. Casey. And she’s got employees and they have families, and she’s got her patients to think about. So this is harder on them.”

But Pluchar said that, while welcoming prayers for a smooth process in finding and moving to a new location, Delcoco and her staff have been able to view the situation in a spiritual light.

At a staff gathering, she said, it was noted that “this is the beginning of Advent, and we think of Joseph and Mary fleeing into Egypt and not having a home. So we had a reflection on the experience of the Holy Family” and the practice’s current situation of being temporarily “homeless.”

Mostly, said Pluchar, Delcoco and the staff “want to send a big thank you to the Women’s Care Center. They’ve been so generous in helping us carry out our mission to provide life-affirming health care.

“So many of our patients have asked how they can help, and we tell them to send donations to Women’s Care Center—they go through so many donations this time of year.

“We’re so grateful to [have used] their space. We want to spread our thank you far and wide!”
 

(Donations to 1st Choice for Women can be made online at www.goangels.org, or checks can be made out to The Gabriel Project and mailed to The Gabriel Project, PO Box 1232, Columbus, IN 47402. Donations to Women’s Care Center can be made by contacting Jenny Hubbard at jhubbard.wccindy@gmail.com or 317-509-9596, or checks can be made out to Women’s Care Center and sent to Women’s Care Center, 4901 W. 86th St., Indianapolis, IN 46268.)

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