By James Mostrom | Contributing writer
Last month, the parishioners of St. Matthew in East Syracuse, St. Mary of the Assumption in Minoa and St. Francis of Assisi in Bridgeport donated much-needed baby-care items to Birthright of Syracuse and New Hope Family Services, also of Syracuse. These pregnancy-care centers (PCCs) assist and counsel pregnant women and new mothers in need and are a life-affirming alternative to Planned Parenthood.
My wife, Elizabeth (Betsy) Mostrom, and I (St. Mary’s parish) organized the nine-day “Baby Shower,” advertising it in the tri-parish bulletin and setting up cribs in each church for the collection of items. The outpouring of donations was extremely generous: cases of diapers and baby wipes; bags of new infant and toddler clothing; hand-knitted caps, sweaters and blankets; several portable cribs; and a highchair. There were even a few cans of precious baby formula. Some parishioners left monetary donations in envelopes tucked among the other items.
After the drive was completed on the 29th of May, Betsy and I collected all the items and brought them to our home in Fayetteville for storage and sorting. Jane Fitzgerald of St. Mary’s assisted Betsy in sorting the items and dividing them up for distribution to Birthright and New Hope.
A volunteer from New Hope Family Services called the donations “amazing!”
“They are going to help a lot of families,” she said. She reports that New Hope typically serves around 50 clients each week and offers free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and parenting classes. She emphasized that there was no charge to the client for any of these services, and so the center relies on support from the community. “Thank you so much to anyone who donated,” she added.
Betsy and I also brought a load of the items over to Birthright. A volunteer at the center described the gifts as “awesome!”
The director of Birthright of Syracuse says the organization has been in operation since 1977 and has been helping women in need with providing baby items and referrals for ultrasounds and other maternity services. “These women are looking for help.”
More recently, they have also been providing maternity clothes for the expectant mothers. Their services are “all free; no money is exchanged at all,” the director said. Therefore, they too are dependent upon grants, donations and fundraisers to meet their operating expenses. Birthright is staffed solely by volunteers, so the funds go directly toward services.
The director expressed her dismay at the recently passed New York State Bill S.470/A.5499 that imposes onerous and costly reporting requirements on “Limited Service Pregnancy Centers” such as Birthright and New Hope (but not “full-service” Planned Parenthood). She sees this as an attempt to force PCCs out of business or to have them refer clients for abortion, something anathema to their mission. Currently she is examining her options.
Betsy Mostrom says that the Baby Shower to support New Hope and Birthright is a long-standing project with the three parishes and that she is only carrying on the tradition. It will continue as long as there is a need.