June 3, 2022

St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities offers ‘hope of a better tomorrow’

Lauren Niehoff shares the story of her and her husband Brian’s journey of adopting Roslyn, center, while Brian holds their second adopted daughter, Ainsley, during the St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities fundraiser gala at Galt House Hotel in Louisville on April 21. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Lauren Niehoff shares the story of her and her husband Brian’s journey of adopting Roslyn, center, while Brian holds their second adopted daughter, Ainsley, during the St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities fundraiser gala at Galt House Hotel in Louisville on April 21. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Mention St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities to residents of New Albany and the surrounding area, and the agency’s crisis maternity services might be the first image to come to mind.

But “the services we provide are always growing and changing,” said agency director Mark Casper. “While we maintain offering maternity home services, today St. Elizabeth is so much more. Today we are the emergency homeless shelter for women and children” in central southern Indiana.

He made these remarks to more than 550 people during St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities’ Giving Hope—Changing Lives fundraiser gala held in the Galt House Hotel in Louisville on April 21.

“We have added a mountain of those recovering from addiction, and this year we opened up a domestic violence shelter,” Casper continued. “These are all great examples of how community partners help St. Elizabeth meet the changing needs of our community.”

He said the agency’s school counseling program experienced a growth of more than 70% last year, “and we’ve already been contracted to meet more of the demand created by two years of COVID. We are already working on coming up with the staff and new methodologies of meeting this changing need.”

In addition to its crisis maternity services and school counseling, St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities offers a women and children’s emergency shelter, affordable supportive housing, domestic violence transitional housing, a supported living program and adoption services, and Marie’s Community Distribution, which offers free items to local families in need.

‘God had a plan for her life’

Several of those services were highlighted at the event.

After the agency’s Spirit of Hope Award was presented to Paula Robinson, participants watched a video on the positive impact of Marie’s Community Distribution, followed by an agency social worker reading a letter of gratitude from a Hispanic woman whose family benefited from the help of the maternity and housing services.

Last, a young family with two small children took the stage to talk about St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities’ adoption services.

“When my husband and I got married, we ... had talked about adoption being something we both wanted to do,” said Lauren Niehoff.

What she and her husband Brian didn’t know was that, “after 12 foster kids in four years in our home, two years of infertility treatments and so many failed attempts, adoption would be how we welcomed our first baby girl, Roslyn.

“I wanted our baby to come from a local mom. We wanted to know our money was being put to good use. After we learned about St. Elizabeth and all the services our money went to, it felt like a no-brainer for our family.”

Niehoff described the moment she received the call that the couple had been chosen by a birth mother as feeling like they “had won the lottery.”

She said she and Brian “fell in love with our birth mom.”

“What I love about St. Elizabeth is they’re very pro-open adoption,” said Niehoff. “They keep a box for you to send photos and letters, and keep them until the birth mom is ready to come get them.”

The Niehoffs, who have since adopted their second daughter, Ainsley, now have a “wonderful relationship” with Roslyn’s birth mother.

“We see her every two months. She comes to all of Roslyn’s birthdays. … She is really an extension of our family.”

Niehoff said Roslyn is “fully aware” that the woman is her birth mom and has the pleasure of getting to know her half-siblings.

“Adoption and St. Elizabeth fulfilled the biggest hole in our hearts,” said Niehoff. “Adoption gave the lifelong dream that I wanted to be a mother.

“I hope one day Roslyn will find herself on a stage very similar to this, speaking about how God had a plan for her life. … I hope she sees that she was honored by two families who cared so much for her—one woman who gave up everything to give her a good life, and one family who gave up everything just to get her.”

‘It’s all showing Christ’s love’

Indiana Rep. Edward Clere was present for the event. The Republican representing the state’s 72nd District—which includes New Albany, where he now resides—grew up near the city. He called St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities “an exceptional organization that touches our region in so many ways.”

“One of the many things I really appreciate about St. Elizabeth is their commitment to the area where they’re located,” he said. “They’re good stewards. People want to support organizations that are good stewards, and there are few better stewards than St. Elizabeth.”

He said the name of the gala, Giving Hope—Changing Lives, is more than a slogan.

“The stories that you hear at this event about lives that have been changed—their work is quite literally life-changing.”

Casper noted that the agency works with more than 100 churches of various faiths in the area.

Mari Coyle, a member of Christ Gospel Church in Jeffersonville, attended the event. She said her church supports the work of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities.

“I’m Pentecostal, and my husband is Catholic,” she said. “We value life. When people are in situations, you don’t scorn them—you help them. Denominations don’t matter—it’s all showing Christ’s love.

“And they truly value the women. They don’t just give them ‘things.’ They give them skills to utilize and grow upon.”

Coyle appreciates the organization’s focus.

“They’re centered around Christ,” she said. “I think anytime you center something around Christ, it’s going to be successful.”

(For more information about St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities or to donate, go to stecharities.org.)

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