Imagine giving birth to a beautiful baby and immediately worrying about how you’ll take your precious bundle home from the hospital. With no car seat, let alone a car, joy gives way to anxiety.
Last Friday, as the year’s first snow glistened from tree branches, a worried mother at University of Louisville Hospital received a new car seat and a gift card for Uber.
These gifts came from Opportunities for Life, a fund managed by Catholic Charities of Louisville. The fund seeks to alleviate fears like these for new or expectant mothers and fathers.
And Catholics around the Archdiocese of Louisville are invited to help by contributing to the annual Opportunities for Life Collection. Last year, the collection netted about $70,000 to benefit mothers and families in need. This year’s collection will take place this weekend, Jan. 16 and 17.
Shalah Bottoms, director of Catholic Charities’ Family Support Services, said the mother who received the car seat and Uber gift card reached out for assistance following the delivery of her baby.
“This funding is so important. Oftentimes, women who take advantage of this funding really have no other option,” Bottoms said in an interview last week. “We try to come up with creative ways to support people, to meet them where they are.”
In addition to providing direct assistance to moms and families, the fund also distributes grants to community partners and non-profit organizations, said Deacon Lucio Caruso, director of mission at Catholic Charities.
Last year, the fund dispersed about $34,000 to 10 organizations. They are:
- Little Way Pregnancy Resource Center
- A Loving Choice Pregnancy Resource Center serving Shelbyville and Shepherdsville, Ky.
- Clarity Solutions Pregnancy Center & Medical Clinic in Elizabethtown, Ky.
- Louisville Moms Helping Moms
- The Golden Arrow
- Lifehouse Maternity Home
- Mama to Mama
- Sitio Clothing Ministry
- Sisters for Life
- BsideU for Life Pregnancy Center
An additional $25,000 was placed into a Lifeline Direct Assistance Fund operated by Catholic Charities, which distributes funds to individuals in need. And $10,000 was set aside to support Catholic Charities’ Mother Infant Care and Mama Matters initiatives, as well as other support programs operated by the agency’s Family Support Services.
The Opportunities for Life Collection grew from the now-closed Opportunities for Life Hotline, which ceased operation in 2018. The hotline — created by the four bishops of Kentucky in the 1980s — provided help to women who were facing unplanned pregnancies.
Through the new two-prong approach — providing direct assistance and assisting community partners — Opportunities for Life has eased the burdens of expecting mothers- and fathers-to-be, said Deacon Caruso.
“We’ve probably been able to exponentially do more in the last year or so,” Deacon Caruso said in an interview last week.
“We asked ourselves how we could best serve those mothers and parents facing lower incomes and other barriers.”
For women facing obstacles in life, Opportunities for Life is a way “to accompany them and be with them,” Deacon Caruso said.
“It’s not just words but action. We are not laying out judgment or guilt, but really caring and showing them compassion,” he said.
Some of the other ways the fund aids families is by providing money for housing deposits, rent, utilities, health care, childcare, transportation costs and food expenses.
While there are some emergency resources in the community to assist with challenges such as eviction, there are a number of stipulations in place that make getting access to the funds challenging, Bottoms noted.
“For emergency funding, oftentimes a person has to already have several late notices or an eviction notice. We can supply people with funding before they get in that red zone, before a situation turns into something worse,” she said.