By Celine Klosterman
WILLIAMSBURG – Confirmation students at St. Mary Parish recently sewed more than a dozen burp cloths, made a tie blanket and decorated thank-you cards for Birthright in Iowa City to send its supporters.
The 10th-graders’ volunteer project was part of an expanded outreach effort St. Mary’s undertook for the pro-life organization this winter. In addition to the Knights of Columbus’ annual rose drive fundraiser, parishioners organized their first collection for baby items to donate to Birthright clients. KC Council 2818 – Bishop Davis raised $1,050 selling silk roses after Masses Jan. 21-22, and Catholics filled a playpen at the church with diapers, baby clothes, blankets and other donations.
“We’ll do anything we can to support the pro-life cause,” said Ryan Doehrmann, the council’s grand knight. “Birthright is there to answer women’s questions, be nonjudgmental and offer support. The commitment and caring that volunteers have for these women is unbelievable.”
The international organization offers free pregnancy testing, maternity and baby clothes, and referrals to help clients meet legal, medical, financial and housing needs.
Christine Martin, director of the Iowa City center, said Birthright’s main goal is to help women with an unplanned pregnancy choose life. But thanks to gifts from churches and individuals, the organization also can offer baby-care supplies to clients. “We try to get everyone started off on the right foot. If they have a need, we try to fill it. Donated items show a woman that other people in the community care.”
Funds donated often go toward purchasing advertisements or pregnancy tests, Martin said. “We have our office space donated, and we’re all volunteers.”
Ann Lillis, St. Mary’s pastoral associate and director of religious education, said the parish had collected mittens and scarves during previous winters for people in need. But as she saw that need being fulfilled locally, she decided to instead spearhead a collection for Birthright this year.
“I have four kids and know how expensive raising children is,” said Anne Armstrong, who invited the confirmation class she teaches to contribute. “I have empathy for people who need Birthright’s service… it’s a scary time, especially if you don’t have family support.”
Father Joseph Roost, St. Mary’s pastor, said he’s glad the youths recognize their obligation to others in need. They and Birthright volunteers “are striving to follow the Gospel values of taking care of each other.”