Stories of Hope Ring Clear at Pregnancy Center Banquet Held Last Thursday

Published Tuesday, September 25, 2018 at 9:29 am

Friends of Hope Pregnancy Center enjoy a delightful evening of good food, fellowship and music while helping a great cause.

By Sherrie Norris

When nearly 300 people gather to share in the success of a local nonprofit organization, that alone can be counted as a milestone. When clients of that organization share their most intimate and oftentimes painful stories through tears and a little laughter, while expressing their gratitude for support and encouragement of those gathered, that’s a sure sign that someone is doing something right.

That was the scenario at the annual Stories of Hope Benefit Gala for Hope Pregnancy Center on Thursday evening, Sept. 20, at the Harvest House Performing Arts Venue in Boone.

Opening remarks were delivered by Tyler Brunson, Board of Directors’ Chair, followed by words from the center’s staff, and especially the new Executive Director, Molly Petrey.

Petrey shared how she had been involved from an early age, thanks to the example of her mother and longtime volunteer, Karen Petrey, who remains actively involved with the center today as a mentor to young mothers.

“I cannot begin to tell you what an honor and a privilege it is for me to be in this role,” said Molly Petrey. “To be able to walk alongside our clients, to encourage, inspire and empower them to successfully navigate the stressors of an unplanned pregnancy, is truly a blessing.”

Petrey referred to 2017-2018 as “ a significant year,” during which the ministry “transformed hundreds of lives and strengthened the community,” while at the same time saying goodbye to Brian Lowe who served as executive director for the last 13 years.

“I know I speak for many in expressing gratitude for Brian’s leadership, direction and diligence in helping women and families thrive,” Petrey added. “I’m honored to guide this important work into the future and to be here tonight to celebrate what God has done.”

Petrey continued, “More women came through our doors in 2017 than ever before. Our client visits grew by 15%, a trend that continues today. Women who are in the decision phase of an unplanned pregnancy consistently schedule appointments, and the investments made into these young families by our staff and supporters make a difference every day in the High Country.”

Positive results of the center’s work is also being seen in the region, as a whole, Petrey stressed. “Per official statistics compiled by the State of North Carolina, from 2007-2016, the percentage of women terminating their pregnancies in Watauga County has fallen by 53%.”

Those numbers, Petrey, added, “are worth celebrating.”

Molly Petrey, longtime volunteer and recently named Executive Director of Hope Pregnancy Center of Boone, addresses the crowd of nearly 300 organization supporters in attendance for Thursday night’s “Stories of Hope” Annual Benefit Banquet.

Empowered and Inspired

Joining Petrey on stage during the event included young mothers who found the compassion and acceptance they so desired during a difficult time of their lives, and were comfortable sharing their experiences.

Elizabeth knew she was pregnant weeks before it was confirmed, she said. “For most of my life, I’d never really dated, and I used to joke that, because I was so inexperienced with that kind of love, I’d probably get pregnant by the first guy I managed to form a relationship with.”

Two months into her first relationship, Elizabeth’s “self-prescribed prophecy” come to light, she shared. “Regardless of how careful we had been, I was pregnant.” Despite reassurances from her friends and even her mother, she knew. “The five home pregnancy tests I took, one after the other, were simply a formality. Any attempt to deny the truth was irrevocably squashed. I was pregnant, and I was terrified,” she recalled. Along with her fear came denial and rejection. “I’d only ever been with one person. This would ruin my life. This could not happen to me. When I told my partner, he was even more terrified than me — and even more convinced that this wasn’t something we could do. His first words to me were, ‘We’re too young to be parents.’”

A student at ASU, Elizabeth went to health services where, for the sixth time, her pregnancy was confirmed. “After I had cried with the doctor — and ran through all of my fears with her — she told me that no matter what I decided to do next, I would need to confirm my pregnancy with an ultrasound, so that I would know how far advanced it was. She told me about Hope and how they gave free ultrasounds to women in the community. I made an appointment with them as soon as I left health services.”

A week later, her baby’s father accompanied her to the appointment and sat in the waiting room while Elizabeth talked with the staff and got the ultrasound. “I cried a lot. I talked a lot. I spent a lot of time trying to compartmentalize and process, and I got a lot of information,” she said. After leaving, Elizabeth felt empowered and knew she could make the decision she needed to make regarding her pregnancy “without being a bad person.”

“I put the folder they gave me with my pregnancy confirmation, the pictures of my six-week-old embryo, the small pack of prenatal vitamins, and all the information about my options in a box on my desk and gave myself two weeks to make a decision about what I was going to do,” she said. Three weeks later, she decided that she was going to have a baby, and that she was going to put away her fear and put faith in herself and her situation to go through with the pregnancy.

“It was the hardest decision I have had to make in my life, to date, and I have yet to regret it,” she said. But, she also admitted, she would never have been able to go through it, “and deal with all the panic and confusion,” without Hope Pregnancy Center.

“I think it is incredibly important to remember that people who come through Hope are facing one of the most challenging experiences of their lives, and so many different things could go so terribly wrong — or so terrifically right,” she said.

She referred to herself as “lucky,” and said her situation turned out “pretty all right.”

The father of her child, although initially against going through with the pregnancy altogether, now assures her almost daily of his love for her and their our soon-to-be-born baby boy (due this week!)

“My family is supportive, my financial situation, though it will undoubtedly be difficult to navigate for a little while, is not in a dire state; my own mental health and well-being is miles away from where it was when I first found out I was pregnant, and I have more hope each and every day that my baby will be born healthy — and that I may soon have a happy, healthy, little family that I never thought I wanted.”

However, Elizabeth added, “Many people are not so lucky and face challenges that far exceed the ones that I faced or find themselves unable, for their own reasons, to make the same decision that I made. Regardless of the understandably strong opinions that exist on either side of debates surrounding the options that women may consider when presented with an unplanned pregnancy, what meant the most to me when I came to Hope was that I never felt like the women who worked there would have openly condemned me for making a decision that they may have, personally, been morally opposed to; I believe that considerate approach to women in similar situations to mine is incredibly important.”

If she had not made the decision to keep her baby, Elizabeth said, she would have needed just as much — or more hope — (“albeit, perhaps in a different way”) that her life could go on, and that she could make something happy and hopeful out of her situation.

“Sometimes, it feels like everywhere we look, hate, misunderstanding, belligerent closed-mindedness, and an unwillingness to compromise, permeates every corner of our society. But, if we are truly individuals who desire to instill hope, then love – and the understanding, kindness, and willingness to approach a situation from someone else’s point of view that should come as an offset of that love – is absolutely the most necessary catalyst for Hope.”

Throughout her pregnancy, Elizabeth has been mentored by Karen Petrey through the center’s parenting program for new moms, a support system that will remain in place through the baby’s first year.

Hope client, Elizabeth, who is preparing to give birth to her baby boy this week, speaks about her experience with Hope, and in particular, her journey through motherhood with mentor, Karen Petrey, at left, and Megan Baugh, pregnancy support advocate.

Yes, She Can!

Other clients, too, like Jamie and Leslee, both recipients of the “Yes, She Can! — the scholarships Hope Center provides for young mothers to be able to continue their education — shared some of their stories through a panel discussion. “Being a mom has changed the way I see things,” said Leslee. “Before Emeri, I lived more for myself. I did what I wanted when I wanted, and didn’t have to think too much about who those choices may affect. Since having Emeri, I find myself thinking about my choices more and how they may affect her. I also find I have more compassion for moms and families, in general.

In sharing the challenges she faces with balancing motherhood, school, career and life, Leslee said, “It’s hard, but, I am finally done with school!“

She thought motherhood would get easier, the older and more independent Emeri got, she said. “But It is no easier today than day one. Each day brings a new challenge. Right now, its kindergarten and the exhausted monster she is when she gets home. I started a new job this year, and that’s brought along different exciting challenges. I love what I do and I’m excited to be learning more and to continue growing my clinical skills. As for life — do any of us have that figured out? Similarly to motherhood, it’s ever changing, and each season (for better or worse) brings new challenges.”

The scholarship helped her get her master’s degree, while being a fulltime mom and student. “Doing both at the same time was a struggle, but the scholarship allowed me to focus on Emeri and my education, and less on working around those two schedules.”

When asked if Hope Center accomplished its mission to “inspire confidence” in women, to help then be a successful mom and student, she responded, “Absolutely! I’m pretty sure I have used all of the programs and resources that Hope has to offer. Through these programs, I have been equipped and supported to ‘thrive in the unexpected.’ They have supported me emotionally and financially since January 2012.”

To the supporters of Hope, she said, “Thank you for supporting and believing in a scared freshman at ASU. Thank you for giving me ‘Hope’ when I felt the most hopeless. Thank you for supporting Emeri, and loving her through your donations.”

How has the student mom scholarship helped Jamie as she’s worked toward her educational and career goals? “Education is expensive. Childcare is expensive. Life is expensive,” she responded. “Hope supported me financially for three years, when they didn’t have to. I got the scholarship for one year, but the Hope staff cares so much about my success, that they extended my financial support. This also wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing donors to Hope. Having this scholarship has made my journey so much smoother. Without it, I would have had to get an evening job, find someone to watch Aiden for almost nothing, and I wouldn’t have been able to focus as much on parenting and school. It also opened other doors for me through Hope, and gave me the opportunity for social and emotional support as well.”

How has being a mom changed her life?

“Despite many challenges, it’s made me a better person all-around,” she answered. “I have meaning in everything that I do because of being a mom. It’s shown me what unconditional love is, and I feel like I’ve maybe caught a glimpse of God’s love through my love for Aiden. While the hardest thing I’ve ever done, is also the best thing I’ve ever done.”

To those present, Jamie stressed, “Just know that your support and donations mean something to real women. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for each and every one of you. And if you have the means and are able, please consider continuing to donate. We’re all trying to build better futures for not only ourselves, but our children.”

Leslee and Jamie, clients of Hope Pregnancy Center and recipients of the Yes She Can! Scholarship, share how their lives were enriched by their affiliation with and support of the center, its staff and donors.

 

A Place of Hope

“Thriving in the Unexpected” is what Hope wants for their clients: “Lives are transformed at Hope. Women, men and their families receive the support they need through provided services and our community is strengthened,” said Petrey.

Some of the many services offered at Hope Pregnancy Center, include the following:

  • Pregnancy testing
  • Options education
  • Ultrasounds
  • Parenting Programs
  • STI Testing and Prevention
  • Post-Abortion support
  • Community Outreach
  • Counseling services

By the Numbers

During the 2017-2018 fiscal year:

  • Hope served 152 clients
  • Provided 145 pregnancy tests
  • Options counseling for 118 clients
  • Performed 210 ultrasounds
  • Saw 105 babies born

Also, in the last year, according to Petrey, 20 Hope clients came in considering an abortion and decided to parent. “And now, 20 new families are thriving in the unexpected.”

“Thank you to all who attended our banquet for the outpouring of love, grace, and compassion towards women and men with unplanned pregnancies,”’ said Petrey. “On behalf of the board and staff, we are continually in awe of this community and the way you rally around others to be bearers of hope!”

Hope is a nonprofit organization, fully funded by individuals and churches. One-hundred percent of donations are tax deductible and may be made to Hope Pregnancy Center, 208 Howard St. Boone, NC 28607

For more information, visit choosehope.org or call 828-265-4357 or text 828-278-9642.

 

 

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