Precious signs of life

Catholic Charities of East Tennessee receives funding for ultrasound equipment            

By Gabrielle Nolan

Catholic Charities of East Tennessee will be the first Catholic organization in the area to receive an ultrasound machine from the Knights of Columbus.

“I just want to say, on behalf of Catholic Charities, that this has been a long time coming… It’s monumental,” said Lisa Healy, executive director of CCETN.

Mrs. Healy received a check for $19,065 from the Knights of Columbus on April 29 at Catholic Charities’ Knoxville offices at 318 N. Gay St.

Presenting the check to Mrs. Healy and her staff was Michael Stahl, professor emeritus in the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Mr. Stahl previously served as the president of Catholic Charities’ board in 2016 and 2017 and is also a trustee with the Knights of Columbus.

“This was a desire and a hope for the board years and years ago, and it’s taken a lot of years to get this to come to fruition,” Mrs. Healy said. “But I would tell you between Mike (Stahl) and Sandi (Davidson), this is a longtime dream and a long time working on getting ultrasound to Catholic Charities.”

With the funds now in place, the ultrasound machine will be purchased at a later date when CCETN is ready to move forward.

Sandi Davidson, Pregnancy Service Program leader with CCETN, noted that the Knights “have provided numerous ultrasound machines to other pregnancy centers, but none of them identify as a ‘Catholic’ organization.”

The donation comes from Knights of Columbus Council 15706 at All Saints Parish in Knoxville.

Henry Usey, Grand Knight of Council 15706, credits the robust relationship between the council and their priests for a successful fundraising effort.

“We’re blessed with a great relationship between our pastor, that’s Father Doug Owens, and our chaplain, that’s Father Alex Hernandez,” Mr. Usey said.

“I have to thank our pastor, I have to thank our chaplain, and Mike (Stahl), and my brother Knights because it’s a group effort,” he continued. “It’s not just one individual that makes everything happen. It’s from the cooperation of us and even, to an extent, the diocese.”

“One of the attractive things about the ultrasound is the statistic that once a pregnant lady hears the heartbeat, the odds of her still getting an abortion are dropped dramatically,” Mr. Usey said.

The Knights’ fundraiser for the ultrasound machine was “one of the easiest fundraiser efforts I’ve ever been involved with,” Mr. Stahl said.

Thirty-four individuals—most of whom were Knights but others who were All Saints parishioners—donated money to this pro-life cause.

“It was an ad hoc fundraising effort,” Mr. Stahl said. “As former associate dean of the college of business, I’ve raised money more than once before. This was relatively easy. It came together in 90 days from when we started raising money until the check [was presented].”

“It was a privilege to be in the right place at the right time and help people donate,” he continued.

Mr. Stahl explained that there was also a second check that aided in the funding of the ultrasound machine.

“In addition to that, there was a $13,000 check from Supreme, which is the national organization for the Knights of Columbus,” he said.

The Supreme Council, which is based in New Haven, Conn., matched 50 percent of the cost of the ultrasound machine.

“They have a strong, strong pro-life ethic. They have placed 1,500 ultrasound machines throughout the country to date. … This is the first one at Catholic pregnancy centers in East Tennessee,” Mr. Stahl said.

Mrs. Healy said the Knights of Columbus are “an incredible Catholic organization and so supportive of Catholic Charities.”

Initially, there was a conversation around placing an ultrasound machine inside a Catholic Charities clinic, possibly in the former headquarters. However, a fire caused by arson on Nov. 28 left the CCETN building on Dameron Avenue unusable until rebuilt.

“So in lieu of starting with a clinic, we’re going to start with a mobile van, which will house the ultrasound,” Mrs. Healy said. “We can meet clients where they’re at in all different counties.”

Mrs. Healy noted that obtaining the ultrasound first “really is the beginning of a longer campaign.”

The van itself will cost over $250,000. Additional funding will allow staffing of a nurse manager and training for the new services.

“There will be a volunteer medical doctor who will review records and make sure that the program is run properly,” Mrs. Davidson explained. “A part-time nurse manager will train and oversee the daily operations… trained volunteer nurses will also be trained to do limited ultrasounds.”

CCETN has applied to work with Save the Storks, a nonprofit organization that aims to “empower women with compassion, education, and holistic care,” according to its website.

Save the Storks contracts with a car manufacturer to create a “Stork Bus,” allowing pregnancy centers to grow their reach and meet more women throughout their communities.

The clinic van’s features will include a bathroom, refrigerator, privacy curtain, air conditioning and heating, security monitor, cameras, and an easy-to-clean interior.

The van will house the portable ultrasound machine, a television to show the client images, and a laptop to record client information.

Esaote, the producer of the portable ultrasound machine, is an Italian company that produces and sells equipment for medical diagnostics.

“It is the only ultrasound provider that does not sell to abortion providers,” Mrs. Davidson noted.

Once a plan is finalized with Save the Storks, CCETN will pursue the fundraising necessary to accomplish its goals.

“I want everybody to know that [the Knights] are ready and waiting to help us,” Mrs. Healy said. “We get a lot of support from the Knights at all the different councils.”

By the end of the 2022 calendar year, CCETN will offer a variety of services for women and families in any and every circumstance:

  • 24-hour helpline;
  • Six pregnancy help centers to provide education on pregnancy and parenting;
  • Ultrasound testing to allow women to see their babies;
  • Material assistance, such as diapers and formula;
  • Testing for sexually transmitted diseases;
  • Community referrals;
  • Adoption services;
  • Project Rachel, which provides post-abortion healing and recovery.

“Catholic Charities will bring the full support, as much as we can bring… for the children and building the family. That’s what we’re about, is how do we build a family, how do we save the children?” Mrs. Healy said. “When you enter a center here, in between now and the next year, we’ll have that full complement of services.”

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