St. Stephen Council 6099 raises funds for Choices East equipment aimed at saving lives
By Janice Fritz Ryken
Thanks to God’s providence and a lot of spaghetti dinners, expectant mothers in Chattanooga can now see clear ultrasound images of their unborn babies after the St. Stephen Parish Knights of Columbus Council 6099 purchased a new ultrasound image machine for a crisis pregnancy center in Chattanooga.
Victor Williams and his brothers in the Knights of Columbus recently purchased the machine for Choices East, a pregnancy resource center located on Vance Road.
For years, Mr. Williams, a pro-life advocate, had admired the work of Choices East. As a past Grand Knight, he’d taken part in many pro-life activities and found himself crossing paths with the kind and hardworking people who run the center, participating in community prayer services, annual prolife events, and property cleanup days.
So when Choices East Director Michele Cheresnick reached out to the Knights, seeking help in raising funds to replace their old, obsolete ultrasound machine, Mr. Williams was thrilled to be able to help.
“I immediately said yes,” said Mr. Williams, who took up the task of raising funds through his council. After initial success, however, the donations slowed.
“I started to worry, imagining myself doing 1,000 or more spaghetti dinners to raise the $13,400 we’d still need,” Mr. Williams said, laughing.
But after realizing this was not his project, but God’s, Mr. Williams said he prayed for guidance and some assistance.
“I decided to just trust God,” he said. On the following weekend — in just one weekend — the Knights had raised enough funds to meet their goal, even raising an extra $3,000. With a matching grant from the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative out of Knoxville, Mr. Williams and his brother Knights recently presented Choices East with a check for $29,128 to purchase a brand new ultrasound machine.
“We are so thrilled; this will make such a difference,” Ms. Cheresnick said. “Many of the women who come through our doors are overwhelmed and scared. Many don’t have insurance; they don’t know what to do first. Showing them their baby’s tiny image on an ultrasound screen instantly gives them a visual to help them focus and make clear decisions. This new machine presents an even clearer image than the images from the old, antiquated machines we were using.”
As a nonprofit service for crisis pregnancies, Choices East offers women (and their partners) free pregnancy testing and ultrasounds, support and education, men’s services, and even post-abortion support.
“Men are often overlooked in the decision-making process, and often they are pushed aside because all the focus is heaped on the mother; she’s a more immediate concern,” said Jonathon Hoover, director of Choices’ Men’s Services. “So they will often push aside their own feelings of sadness or guilt. Here we encourage them to open up about their feelings in a safe and healthy environment.”
One young man named Eric who benefited from the men’s program says Choices helped him become a willing participant in his girlfriend Jamie’s pregnancy and that the counsel he received better prepared him for his daughter’s birth.
“Most guys don’t stick around for the baby’s birth; they’re often left out of the decisions, and no one steps up and tells them what’s expected. But through counseling, I felt ready,” Eric said with a proud smile.
Choices East CEO Carol Anne Ferguson said ultrasounds are only one facet of all the resources available for people facing crisis pregnancies at Choices. She said in today’s highly charged environment, where people have very strong opinions, Choices puts an emphasis on providing a haven for people dealing with an already stressful situation.
“There’s already so much animosity and so much strife between the pro-life and pro-choice people. But here at Choices, we’d rather be known for what we’re for, rather than what we’re against,” Ms. Ferguson said. “We just want to be sure everyone is well-informed. We’re always for life. That’s what we place above all else. We don’t judge, we don’t coax; we give counsel and let them know they’re never alone. We make sure they know they have access to all the resources they need, to be able to make sound decisions.”
Women’s questions are answered by caring professionals who will not judge but merely inform and be there to lend support, according to Ms. Ferguson.
She said the Choices facility focuses on support through education, and she believes in incentivizing clients to be as prepared for parenthood as they can be.
First-time parents are encouraged to earn “baby bucks” through the center’s “Earn While You Learn” program. The program takes mothers and fathers through a series of parenting videos.
Each time moms and dads come for a video session, followed by discussions, they receive baby bucks to use at the Choices Baby Boutique. The boutique has everything a baby needs, from clothing and blankets to Pack ’n Plays and baby monitors. Participants have the ability to earn points each time they attend a meeting.
“We have brand-new clothing and baby items donated by the benevolence of others. And often many expectant parents don’t have a great deal of money and might have only minimal support, so this is a great way for them to get what they need to set up their nurseries and prepare for baby, while also being properly educated,” Ms. Ferguson said.
Choices East is located at 6232 Vance Road in Chattanooga. Anyone interested in learning more about Choices can call or text 423-892-0803.
While Choices’ focus is always on the sanctity of life, and inside the center are baby items to illustrate new life, outside of the center is a sobering reminder that so many babies never complete their journeys to be born, either through abortion, miscarriage, being stillborn, or lost to complications.
Outside the Choices East center is the National Memorial for the Unborn, dedicated to healing generations of pain associated with the loss of aborted and miscarried children. These children are honored through the memorial’s Wall of Names and Remembrance Garden, allowing mothers, fathers, and other family members to begin their healing process.
The 50-foot granite Wall of Names holds small brass plates with words of remembrance from individuals and families all over the country, seeking post-abortion healing.
The Remembrance Garden is also a peaceful sanctuary for mothers, fathers, and other family members to honor their miscarried child. Engraved brick pavers placed along the garden paths share their personal stories and provide encouragement to others seeking peace and solace there.
The grounds are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.