Respect Life Ministry Pregnancy Help Center, located in Miami Lakes, is one of many Florida branches whose primary goal is to assist people involved in a crisis pregnancy, be it financial or physical. The organization also offers different programs intended to assist families during pregnancy and after birth with infants up to 12 months as well as adoption planning and post-abortion counseling programs open to men and women of any age.
An ultrasound is not yet available at the Miami Lakes location, however a referral to a nearby center will be made. All assistance, referrals, classes and care are done at no cost.
The non-profit organization, made up almost entirely of volunteers of all ages and stages of life, has been serving Miami Lakes and the surrounding areas since its move to Miami Lakes in May 2012.
"We want to help teach you how to help your baby become the person you would like him or her to be," said an anonymous volunteer.
Free pregnancy tests, counseling, material assistance, breast-feeding courses and Earn While You Learn parenting classes offered in English, Spanish and Creole are available. Classes are open to mothers and fathers of infants (whom are welcome to attend the class), and expecting mothers and fathers.
Women and men attending the parenting classes have the opportunity to earn up to three points for attending each class, completing an accompanying worksheet and a take home assignment. These points, known in the center as "Mommy Bucks," can be used toward purchasing a variety of baby items such as clothing, bassinets, cribs, walkers, changing tables, strollers, diaper bags, baby bouncers, shoes, and other items ranging between one to 30 points given through partnerships with corporations like Wal-Mart.
Parenting classes include educational videos and instruction on car safety, breast-feeding, the proper way to hold a child, bonding with an infant and many other topics.
Material needs are supplemented on a monthly basis for families who have already completed the Earn While You Learn program as well as for emergencies if available, though the center encourages the classes as a means to purchase new items with "Mommy Bucks."
"The Earn While You Learn program really does wonders for the self-esteem for many of these parents because they're working for things their child needs," said program coordinator Mary Tate.
With over 92 classes offered and over a hundred prospective parents in and out of the center monthly, costs for the center quickly mount. Diaper drives held at different schools throughout the year, volunteer work, individual and corporate donations and partnerships, baby bottle campaigns, and even returning mothers whose children have outgrown cribs and other items donate them once again for other mothers at the center all help generate income and satisfy needs for the center. An annual luncheon fundraiser also helps funding.
"We can never have enough diapers, as any parent would know," said Tate.
Respect Life Ministry Pregnancy Help Center's 2013 luncheon fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, September 28, at 11:30 a.m. at the Howard Johnson Plaza Miami Airport Hotel, 7707 N.W. 103 Street in Hialeah Gardens. Tickets are $35 per person and the luncheon is open to the public. Tickets are on sale until August 23. To purchase tickets visit www.respectlifemiami.org or call 305-653-2921.
Cost of tickets, auctions, and donations will go directly toward funding day to day operations, an ultrasound, material items and a larger location.
A door prize of a 4 day, 3 night stay at the Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas will be awarded to a lucky guest with the purchase of a ticket. The luncheon will feature the opportunity for donations, a Chinese Auction, a program book with discounts and advertisements, and guest speaker Dr. Grazie Christi.
Christi, a Miami native, graduated from Colombia University in 1991 and the University of Miami Medical School in 1995 where she completed her residency and fellowship for Musculoskeletal Radiology while caring for three children, welcoming her fourth while in private practice and adopted her fifth child from China. She brings her expertise in medicine and her experience with her own children to her role as guest speaker.
The center also offers Project Joseph and refers single mothers to The Gabriel Project. Project Joseph aims to help soon-to-be and new fathers to embrace their role as father and help with planning for the future. It is an in-house project that takes place at the center.
The Gabriel Project pairs single mothers and those in a crisis pregnancy with a female volunteer called a "Gabriel Angel" to assist with doctor visits, transportation, emotional support, spiritual needs and to provide friendship.
Respect Life Ministry Pregnancy Help Center also refers men and women who are in need of post abortion counseling to Project Rachel and Rachel's Vineyard. Project Rachel is widespread throughout the nation, like The Gabriel Project. The Miami location is led by Respect Life Ministry director, Joan Crown and program coordinator, Barbara Groeber. Project Rachel is confidential, one-on-one counseling sessions for two to six months and Rachel's Vineyard is a public weekend retreat.
"We're not here to judge, we're here to listen," said Tate.
Respect Life Ministry Pregnancy Help Center is located at 5801 N.W. 151 Street, Suite 302, in the Villaggio in the Lakes Plaza in Miami Lakes. Office hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and the first and third Saturday of the month. Appointments are available. Walk-ins are welcome.
All information received at Respect Life Ministry Pregnancy Help Center is kept confidential, only disclosed as required by law.
Donations for the center can be dropped off or picked up. For more information on donating, services offered, volunteer opportunities (particularly for Creole speakers and lactation consultants), and advertising space in the program book call 786-452-0266. For prospective parent information visit www.pregnancyhelp.me.