The Women’s Care Center of Erie, Pa., was founded in 1982 to offer women options other than abortion. From simple beginnings, the center has now grown into a “mega center” with four intake offices, an education office, a newly purchased main building, an in-house adoption agency, STD testing and treatment services, and a thriving boutique.
But to what do they owe their remarkable success? According to Brenda Newport, the center’s long-time director, it’s allowing God to be God.
“The ministry was His,” Newport said. “I never felt qualified or responsible to do other than what He called me to do.”
Before working at the center, Newport had been involved with a variety of ministries. At one time, she and her family served a missions stint in Papua New Guinea, where her husband pastored and worked with clean water initiatives. Back in the states, she also volunteered with a prison ministry while she ran her own income tax business.
Then, in 1983, she gave a friend a ride to the Women’s Center for a volunteer training.
“I took someone else for volunteer training,” said Newport. “Here I am 30 years later! God kind of roped me in and took my heart.”
In nearly 30 years of work, Newport has seen the center grow by leaps and bounds. Last year alone, the organization provided more than 4,200 services to their clients and saw a minimum of one child a week saved from abortion.
“These are their decisions, their life, but you give them everything you can to keep them from harm’s way and when you’ve done that you’ve succeeded,” Newport said. “Everyone has free will. We just help them to find the right path.”
Another aspect of the center’s ministry is “My Sister’s Closet,” a fashionable, upscale boutique.
“We’ve had ‘My Sister’s Closet’ for about 15 years,” said Newport. “We got the idea at a Heartbeat International conference. It serves the clients who earn vouchers for educational or counseling visits. It’s open to the community to give products and to shop there. We’ve never had to ask for stuff, ever! We never appealed.”
With a long-term lease coming to an end, Newport and her staff are trying to relocate the boutique to a more central area, which they hope to open in November or December.
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“It’s a ministry. It brings provision for the clients and also an opportunity to employ people,” said Newport. “It’s mostly women’s designer wear. We try to keep it new or almost new quality. We specialize in women’s ware, accessories, children’s clothing 0-4T and housewares.”
Another unique facet of the Women’s Care Center is their licensed, non-profit adoption agency, “Adoption by Choice.” It all began with Newport’s very first adoption-minded mother. The center worked with the mother to create an adoption plan that specifically met her needs, only to discover this to be a highly unconventional way of adoption planning.
“God took my mother’s heart and my ignorance on adoption and created something new,” Newport said. “The idea was the birth mother would be in charge of her baby, not ‘abandoning it,’ but planning for her baby’s life. The baby would be loved, secure, and safe with a family she chose, not just someone off a list.”
Eventually, the Women’s Care Center decided to open their own agency. “We were doing adoptions through the court, but the judge asked me to start an agency because we were doing more adoption than anyone else through the whole region,” Newport said.
After 30 years of involvement at the center, Newport has had the joy of seeing many of the center’s “success stories” reach adulthood and have children of their own. With contentment in her voice, Newport sums up the truth about working in the pro-life ministry.
“So many more lives are saved than lost,” she said about the center’s work. “You can’t work in this ministry for 30-something years and not hear constantly the outcomes of life and happiness.”