In the images of God


By Bill Brewer

Thanks to an effective fundraising campaign by Knights of Columbus Council 3175 at St. Mary Parish in Oak Ridge, Choices Resource Center is now counseling expectant mothers with the aid of new ultrasound technology.

Choices Resource Center provides free pregnancy-related counseling services to women and couples, specializing in crisis pregnancies.

According to its mission statement, Choices Resource Center “provides life-affirming services to women and men facing reproductive choices and unplanned pregnancies while glorifying Jesus Christ and mirroring His grace and truth.”

Representatives with Choices and the St. Mary Knights of Columbus cut the ceremonial ribbon for the new ultrasound equipment on May 14 at Choices’ Oak Ridge center located at 107 Raleigh Road.

Father Ray Powell, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Oak Ridge, offered prayers and blessed the new equipment.

At the ceremony, Choices executive director Malissa Mocsari, who is a registered nurse, thanked the Knights of Columbus for partnering with the center.

“Without them, we would not be here today,” Ms. Mocsari said. “Ultrasound technology continues to improve each year. Being able to provide the clearest images makes all the difference in the world when it comes to women seeing their baby in the womb and choosing life. … We just cannot thank you enough for this updated technology.”

Ms. Mocsari shows clear images of a baby in the womb from the new ultrasound. (Photo Bill Brewer)

Ms. Mocsari cited a recent example where a pregnant woman approached Choices after purchasing abortion pills online. Ms. Mocsari described the woman as scared and said she decided against taking the pills.

Instead of aborting her child, the young mother decided to give birth to her baby after seeing an ultrasound image.

“Being able to provide those services is just incredible. Thank you so much,” Ms. Mocsari said. “Praise God, our Creator, and for the technology to be able to see into the womb.”

She said the Choices staff was humbled by the generosity of the Knights of Columbus in making the project possible and pointed out that Council 3175 spent months raising money, including staffing a concessions booth at University of Tennessee football games that generated funds.

Father Powell said he is grateful for the work Choices and its staff do in assisting women with their pregnancies.

“It’s a wonderful facility, and this is an important piece of equipment that truly gives women real options and real knowledge to make sure they are making the best, informed decision they possibly can. And, of course, we hope they choose life, that beautiful gift from God,” Father Powell shared.

Father Powell said he is proud of the St. Mary Knights council, not only for the work they’ve done with Choices, but also for all their efforts in serving the parish and the larger Oak Ridge community.

Council 3175 member Morgan Paul said the ultrasound project took three years to complete. According to Mr. Paul, the UT concessions booth was hard work but provided an effective way to raise the needed funds.

He noted that Council 3175 raised $7,500 toward the ultrasound, with matching funds contributed by the 4US organization, which helps deliver ultrasound technology to organizations like Choices Resource Center, and by the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council.

In total, Choices received $27,000 from the fundraising campaign, which covered the cost of the new ultrasound system.

“They (Choices) do all the hard work. But we’re glad to be able to provide them the tool they need to save lives,” Mr. Paul said.

As part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Choices showed the attendees a recent ultrasound of a baby in the womb of an unidentified client. The image of the baby was sharp, and it was apparent the child was breathing and moving.

A Choices volunteer compared the images from the new ultrasound and the older models with images from a new, high-definition television and those from an older, 13-inch TV. She said one of Choices’ “first saves” were twins that were identified through ultrasound.

Ms. Mocsari pointed out that Choices Resource Center has operated in Oak Ridge for 32 years, and she explained that the Oak Ridge Knights contributed 25 percent of the proceeds, 4US contributed another 25 percent, and the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council matched with a 50 percent contribution.

She said ultrasound technology is life-changing for women and lifesaving for their babies.

“Most women in the community who are considering abortion have been told and will believe that it’s just a clump of cells, no matter the gestation. When they see that baby on the ultrasound, they see that it’s a formed head and face and arms, and that beating heart. They see that it is really a baby. It’s not just a clump of cells. It makes it real for them. And it changes minds,” Ms. Mocsari said.

She pointed out that 85-95 percent of women considering abortion who see an ultrasound of their baby will change their minds and give birth. And she shared that the ultrasound device is used daily. Choices will continue to use the ultrasound equipment they already have as a back-up system.

Fathers are strongly encouraged to see the ultrasound, too. And Choices has a team of men who are fathers who mentor the new fathers accompanying the new mothers who are clients.

“There are many young men who grew up without fathers, so they don’t know how to be a man. These volunteers gently help them work through their problems. It’s an incredible thing to watch,” Ms. Mocsari said.

Knights of Columbus with Council 3175 at St. Mary Parish in Oak Ridge join the Choices Resource Center staff in showing off the new ultrasound the Knights raised money to purchase. Pictured are Keith Hood, Rick Sample, John Lulay, Chip Dooley, Larry Carignan, Ray Audet, Morgan Paul, Deacon David Duhamel, Ronnie Holmes, and Father Ray Powell with Choices Resource Center executive director Malissa Mocsari and marketing director Ariana Walker. (Photo Bill Brewer)

She also pointed out that all of Choices’ services are free, and the organization’s budget is supported solely by donations, with no government funding.

Ms. Mocsari noted that Choices has been working with Catholic Charities of East Tennessee in supporting women who are expecting a child. She said Catholic Charities recently launched a new ultrasound service, and Choices assisted the Diocese of Knoxville ministry in helping a Catholic Charities staffer get training on the new equipment.

“Our board was enthusiastic about partnering with them. Their nurse manager came here, and we were able to set up model ultrasounds for her, and she got her training ultrasounds in. … And she is now providing ultrasounds at their center,” Ms. Mocsari said. “We love Catholic Charities. We’re all in this same fight for life together.”

Catholic Charities recently opened its ultrasound clinic for pregnant women. The clinic is located in Catholic Charities’ main facility at 119 Dameron Ave. in Knoxville.

According to Choices Resource Center’s 2023 Community Impact Report, the center recorded 1,460 client visits last year. It also performed 252 pregnancy tests, 220 ultrasounds, gave 137 tests for sexually transmitted infections, assisted 85 parenting programming participants, and accumulated more than 1,807 volunteer hours.

Among the center’s free services are pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, peer counseling, community referrals, an Earn While You Learn program, parenting classes, prenatal classes, men’s mentoring, providing adoption information, post-abortion counseling, and translation services.

As part of its operation, it offers mothers (and fathers) a Baby Barn, where items critical to infant care such as diapers, blankets, clothes, car seats, and cribs can be obtained.

Sandy Bradshaw, Choices’ director of advancement, explained that women and couples who attend Choices’ parenting classes earn “baby bucks” that can be redeemed in the Baby Barn for items for newborns and every child they have.

Ms. Bradshaw said individual donors and some companies donate items to Choices to stock the Baby Barn. And she added that the nonprofit organization’s parenting classes are so popular that there is a waiting list.

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