Just a couple of months before making a cross-country trek to Ohio for an intensive week of training in the world of pregnancy help, Stacy Valdez, executive director of Canon City Pregnancy Center in Colorado, asked her board to take a leap of faith with her.
Having just assumed the director’s role at the center in April, Valdez knew her center’s clients needed a major change. Offering free ultrasound scans, material assistance, and emotional support to pregnant women in the central Colorado town, Canon City Pregnancy Center is a community staple for families in need.
But the clients needed the center to be open for longer hours, and they needed those hours Monday through Friday.
“We looked at the budget and we just couldn't afford it,” Valdez said. “We thought about reaching out (for funding), and when we prayed about it, we all agreed that we were just going to step out in faith and do that.”
With hours now set from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week, Valdez headed to Columbus, Ohio, this August for Heartbeat International’s Pregnancy Help Institute to learn more about how to serve in her new role at the center.
Developed in 2007, Pregnancy Help Institute serves as a week-long training for new directors, medical staff, and fundraising specialists from pregnancy centers across the country. It offers pregnancy help professionals the opportunity to network and learn best practices in order to save lives and rescue families in their local communities.
And sometimes, an extra gift is included by week’s end.
Indeed, at the end of this year’s training, Valdez and 19 other attendees were met with stunning news from Heartbeat International President Jor-El Godsey: They had each been selected as recipients of a check for $5,000 designated for general operating expenses at their centers.
After stepping out in faith just two months before, Valdez was shocked and grateful.
“I wanted to say thank you so much for your generosity,” she said, reflecting on the last few months in a video message sent to the anonymous donor behind the grant. “To tell you what this means to me...it’s a little overwhelming right now.”
Tweet This: “I wanted to say thank you so much for your generosity. To tell you what this means to me...it’s a little overwhelming right now”
Other recipients echoed her thoughts.
“I would so like to thank the donor who gave the scholarship,” said Angela Alsup, who was named executive director of Life Choices Pregnancy Support Centers in Tennessee this summer. “It is quite overwhelming for a non-profit, pro-life place to be given $5,000. We try to use every penny that we have very carefully and very wisely, and I am so appreciative and I cannot wait to tell people at my center what has been given to us. It’s quite overwhelming so thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Since 2013, the anonymous donor has also underwritten more than 200 scholarships to Pregnancy Help Institute. In 2016, the donor worked with Heartbeat International to offer the first set of $5,000 grants to center directors.
A global network of more than 2,700 pregnancy help organizations, Heartbeat International provides resources and training to affiliates across the U.S. and all around the world, empowering them to serve families and save lives from the threat of abortion.
Heartbeat International has trained more than 700 leaders through Pregnancy Help Institute since 2007, in addition to the 1,000 and over 5,000 leaders trained at its Annual Conference and through its online Academy each year, respectively.
Together with a team of Heartbeat’s pregnancy help experts, Terri Fox, grant specialist for Heartbeat International, reviews scholarship applications and oversees the selection of grant recipients for Pregnancy Help Institute. Neither the scholarships or grants are guaranteed every year, but Fox says the anonymous donor behind the gifts has a heart for education and training and appreciates the financial pressures that many centers face.
“The donor understands the needs for general operating funds,” she said. “To be able to give someone a grant that they can use if they need to pay a light bill or if they have to pay the staff or something, that it can be used in a way that’s most meaningful for the center at the time.”
For Valdez, who says donations for operating expenses are hard to come by, that awareness is everything.
“Nobody donates for the operations,” she said. “So thank you, that means a lot, and we really appreciate it.”
Keen to be good stewards of the donor’s generous gifts, Fox says the Heartbeat team prays over the list of scholarship applicants and possible grant recipients each year. This year alone 60 attendees from 24 states were chosen as recipients of the scholarship, representing a wide cross-section of America.
The reach of the donor’s generosity leaves Fox inspired.
“It’s just such a joy for Heartbeat to be the conduit, especially when we get to distribute those grant checks on the last day of PHI,” Fox said. “It’s so unexpected...and just to see their faces and to see the excitement and the disbelief and the thankfulness...it makes me cry. It’s just a joy to be a part of it.”