By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Though the Opportunities for Life Hotline closed a year ago, help for some women facing an unplanned pregnancy may still be a phone call away.
The statewide hotline — created by the four bishops of Kentucky in the 1980s — closed at the end of 2018, a casualty of changing times and technology. But the January Opportunities for Life Collection, which funded the hotline each year, will continue to support mothers who need help.
“We’ve decided to divide the money, at least for this year, into two buckets,” said Deacon Lucio Caruso of Catholic Charities of Louisville, which now administers the fund.
Part of the money will go into a “Lifeline Fund” and the remainder will fund grants to six local groups serving women in crisis pregnancies, he said.
The Lifeline Fund will provide direct assistance to women, said Deacon Caruso. It will be administered by Catholic Charities’ Family Support and Referral Center directed by Shalah Bottoms.
Bottoms said the funds are already being put to use.
“I see client after client faced with homelessness or fear of losing the home they have,” said Bottoms, who runs the Mother-Infant Care Program, which provides education, resources and support to women. The women who attend the six-week Mother-Infant Care program have many financial challenges, said Bottoms. “It’s one of the reasons it was decided the money can be used in this manner.”
Bottoms said her office recently assisted two mothers who were facing homelessness. One, a mother of five and pregnant with twins, was on the verge of being evicted from her home.
Another young mother had escaped an abusive situation and was living in a hotel room. Two other women were facing a barrier to getting into public housing because they had past-due utility bills.
All the women received assistance from the Lifeline Fund, said Bottoms.
The fund can also be used for certain health-related costs. Bottoms said she recently received a call inquiring if the fund could be used to cover the cost of therapy for a mother who’d experienced a traumatic situation. The answer was yes.
The fund is “very flexible to meet the needs of individual clients to help them get back to wellness and stability,” she said.
Deacon Caruso said he hopes the assistance will go beyond Jefferson County.
“It’s for the whole archdiocese,” he said, noting there are fewer resources in rural areas. He noted Catholic Charities is also collaborating with Eva Gonzalez, director of Hispanic Ministry in the Office of Multicultural Ministry. She will help ensure the Hispanic community is aware of the fund.
“We don’t want to overlook that group. They also face some of the same needs as well as some particularly challenging needs,” he said, noting that immigration issues and deportation present additional challenges for some of these families. “We want to be inclusive of all our people.”
In addition to the Lifeline Fund, the six groups receiving grants and their grant amounts are: The Golden Arrow Center for Mothers and Children, $4,500; Lifehouse Maternity Home, $5,000; Little Way Pregnancy Resource Center, $8,500; Louisville Moms Helping Moms, $5,000; Billboards for Life, $2,000; and A Loving Choice Pregnancy Crisis Center, $5,000.
Moms Helping Moms is a grass-roots group formed recently by three Louisville mothers. They help women by preparing meals and buying groceries and household items.
They also help with transportation to appointments and, above all, they provide emotional support and prayers, said Ange Popovich, one of the organizers.
Popovich said the grant is a “blessing.”
“We just feel very blessed that as small as we are we got the grant,” she said during a recent interview.
Popovich said Moms Helping Moms assists women in small ways, but the funds will help them do more. The money will allow them to help some women with larger things, such as emergency help paying rent, said Popovich. Before, they referred women in such situations to Catholic Charities, she said.
Moms Helping Moms is run by Popovich and two other moms, Danna Dandurand and Melissa Vander Woude. Popovich said, for now, she’d like to keep the group small.
“We don’t want to grow too fast too soon, because we want to keep doing a good job,” she said.
Moms Helping Moms was formed last Spring and organizers hear about women who need help through referrals from other organizations, like the Little Way Pregnancy Resource Center and word of mouth, said Popovich.
The volunteers, who are all involved in pro-life work, wanted to do something more to directly assist women in crisis pregnancy.
Louisville Moms Helping Moms can be reached through a facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Louisville-Moms-Helping-Moms-1257706647766507/ or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While direct assistance such as that provided by Moms Helping Moms and Catholic Charities has been flourishing, the Opportunities for Life Hotline had become less relevant in recent years. It was staffed for the last three-plus decades by dedicated, trained volunteers who provided women with a listening ear and information about resources in the community.
Over the years, many volunteers put their lives on hold to take calls from women in crisis. In the 1990s at least 150 volunteers served and at the time the hotline closed 40 volunteers were still involved, according to a statement from Kentucky’s bishops when the hotline closed.
But the times have changed — the internet provides resources with a quick search and few young people use the phone the way they used to.
The bishops determined the hotline was “no longer the best stewardship of funds collected in support of the mission to promote a pro-life culture in Kentucky,” said the statement.
The annual collection to benefit the Lifeline Fund and individual grants will be taken up on Jan. 18 and 19, 2020.