By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
A miniature chapel that contains a large portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a crucifix and a short pew from St. Louis Bertrand Church is the spiritual heart of the Little Way Pregnancy Resource Center’s new location on West Oak Street.
That’s where the staff and volunteers go when they need a little extra support for the work they do serving women in crisis pregnancies, said Theresa Watson, the center’s director.
“It’s a blessing for us and it’s a blessing for clients,” said Watson. “We try to tell clients all the time, ‘You are not alone.’ It’s so peaceful.”
The center moved to its current location nearly a year ago, but the chapel was dedicated and blessed just last month by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz.
Little Way’s former location, across the street from St. Louis Bertrand, was about 1,800 square feet with about 900 square feet that was suitable for clients. Now the facility, located at Sixth and Oak streets just around the corner from the church, has more than twice the square footage.
It serves about 2,000 clients a year in several ways. It offers free pregnancy tests — it’s most popular service. It also offers tangible help, in the form of diapers and clothing.
Volunteers also are trained to be peer counselors who guide their clients who choose to keep their babies, especially telling them what kind of help is available to them. If a woman who visits has a negative pregnancy test, volunteers also will talk to her about abstinence and “moving forward with her life,” Watson said.
Women who are seriously considering abortion can receive an ultrasound at the center, which is licensed by the state to offer limited non-diagnostic ultrasounds. The machine was housed in a closet at the old location. Now, its located in what looks like an exam room in a warm, upscale doctor’s office. Volunteer registered nurses operate the machine.
“It’s a phenomenal piece of technology for saving lives,” Watson said. “It’s amazing when you can say (to a client), ‘I know you feel so burdened right now. Let me show you what’s happening in your belly right now.’
“I’ll never forget the first one we did; the baby was sucking his thumb,” she added.
The purchase and renovation of the new center — which previously housed a window-less beauty school — was funded by donations. The total cost was just under $200,000. And Watson said everything was completed under budget because many services and items were donated unexpectedly by local businesses. Also, local Boy Scouts completed a couple of projects at the center.
The Little Way center will be celebrating its 30th anniversary next year. It was founded by Father Joseph Jurasko and a group of others who prayed regularly at abortion clinics, including lay women from the Third Order Dominicans and Sister of Mercy Mary Prisca Pfeffer.
It currently has four paid staff, including Watson, a bookeeper and two educators who teach abstinence education in local schools. The center welcomes volunteers and donations of diapers, small baby items, formula, clothing up to size two and diaper bags. Its hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.