Monday, August 19, 2013
Marlene Quaroni - Florida Catholic
FORT LAUDERDALE | For 20 years, the Central Broward Pregnancy Help Center served women and their unborn children from a cramped office on North Andrews Avenue, in a strip mall close to St. Clement Church.
When the strip mall closed in April, the center had to be relocated. But with the help of donors, what at first seemed bad news turned into good news.
About 75 people came to the dedication Aug. 7 of the center's new home at 527 N.E. 13 St., Fort Lauderdale. Unlike the old office, this one has room to spare for volunteers, donors and the women they serve.
“It’s like moving from a closet to a palace,” said Kelly Huguet, the center’s program coordinator. “This office is six times bigger than our old office which we occupied for 20 years. You can see by the look on our client’s faces when they come here. This new office which opened in May uplifts their spirits.”
The center is one of five pregnancy help centers in Miami-Dade and Broward counties operated by the Archdiocese of Miami’s Respect Life Ministry. All are funded by donations and state grants.
“God found a bigger, nicer place for us to serve the community,” said Joan Crown, archdiocesan director of respect life. “This building was formerly a church and had to be renovated to accommodate our offices. We received $5,000 from the archdiocese, but needed much more money so we reached out to the prolife community. Donations started to pour in, enough for us to open.”
The new center has a reception area, two counseling rooms, administrative offices, a meeting room and storage room for donated baby items. Hallway walls are lined with pictures of babies developing in the womb, the milestones of early life.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who blessed the center, said that the facility will be a blessing for hundreds of girls and women seeking help with their pregnancies.
“Catholic social teaching tells us that no man is a problem,” said Archbishop Wenski. “We recognize the value of all human beings from the moment of their conception to death. This new office is a witness to our beliefs.”
The center serves about 800 to 1,000 clients annually. It offers pregnancy testing, counseling and “Earn While You Learn” classes where clients learn parenting and money management skills, said Huguet. When clients take classes they earn Baby Bucks which they can use to buy baby items from the center.
“Instead of just giving the girls and women baby items, we teach them to have healthy babies and the proper skills to raise a child,” said Huguet.
Most of the girls and women who come to the center have considered abortion. But “we don’t force them to have their baby, we educate them on their options, such as adoption,” said Huguet. “We teach them about sexually-transmitted diseases and abstinence. And we make sure they know about getting help from community services and state programs.”
The centers also offer material assistance until the baby is two years old.
“We try to give them self-esteem so that they won’t put up with abuse from their husband or boyfriend,” said Huguet. “That includes the abuse of sexual permissiveness. They can say no.”
Clients come to the center in desperate situations, such as those living in shelters and a 20 year-old woman, already the mother of five, who was pregnant with her sixth child, said Huguet.
List of Respect Life Pregnancy Help Centers
- Central Broward: 527 N.E. 13 St., Fort Lauderdale, 33304 / 954-565-0229
- North Broward: 5115 Coconut Creek Parkway, Margate, 33063 / 954-977-7769
- South Broward: 5600 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 33021 / 954-963-2229
- North Dade: 5801 N.W. 151 St., Suite 302, Miami Lakes, 33014 /305-653-2921
- South Dade: 9360 Sunset Drive, Suite 238, Miami, 33173 / 305-273-8507
- For more information on the services offered at these centers, click here: www.pregnancyhelp.me.
The center’s services are not just for the women and girls but also for their boyfriends or husbands.
“Project Joseph teaches boys and men to become better supporters,” said Huguet. “We have men who volunteer to mentor them. And they can also earn Baby Bucks. We even have a room painted blue for males along with a pink counseling room for females.”
Many times, the volunteers discover that a so-called “deadbeat dad” thinks that he will be in the way and feels that he does not know what to do with the new baby. “We teach them about responsibility,” said Huguet.
Respect Life also has a program called Project Rachel which counsels post-abortion women, and volunteers visit the schools to make students aware of alternatives to abortion.