Last month as Mother’s Day weekend approached, staff and volunteers from an Ohio pregnancy center took time to honor and help moms in the community, providing needed materials and much-needed hope to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were prompted by all the COVID stuff … people feeling hopeless, overwhelmed and anxious,” said Melanie Miller, executive director of Ashland Pregnancy Care Center. “When all of this happened, we had many moms stop in at our center, panicked and afraid they weren’t going to have enough baby food or diapers and wipes.”
“We just had such a burden on our hearts for babies and moms in our community,” Miller said, “so we decided to provide a ‘blessing bag’ filled with love.”
Blessing the community with essential items
The idea took root in April, and the event was held the Friday before Mother’s Day, Miller said. She and her staff and volunteers created 100 ‘blessing bags,’ filling them with items for moms and babies. That included diapers, wipes, toys, and crocheted and knitted blankets made by women from a local church. These were called ‘prayer blankets’ because each one was prayed over before being disbursed. The center also received donations of toothbrushes and toothpaste from local dentists and bottles of shampoo, soap, and lotion provided by local hotels. Limited amounts of formula and baby food was also available, and a Gospel tract and a brochure about the center’s services were also placed in each bag.
“We wanted it to be an outreach for the Gospel as well so we could meet a tangible need for these moms with babies,” Miller said, “but the most important need we all have is the spiritual need, to know Christ, and if we can encourage people with prayer, we wanted to do that.”
Tweet This: “We wanted it to be an outreach for the Gospel as well so we could meet a tangible need for these moms with babies”
Gideons International’s Ashland Camp, which provides Bibles for the pregnancy center, also assisted.
They set up a prayer tent at which women, after obtaining their material items, could go and receive prayer plus a Bible or a “personal witness testament,” Miller said. Forty-two testaments were given out along with 19 full-sized Bibles.
“Overall, I think the event went really well,” she said. “We put our faith to action, and it was a great bright spot amid all the COVID happenings.”
This drive-through community event was held in the parking lot of a local church. Miller and her helpers wore masks and gloves in keeping with pandemic restrictions, and those needing supplies stayed in their cars.
Center to celebrate 40 years in Ashland
Located mid-way between Cleveland and Columbus, Ashland Pregnancy Care Center has been part of the community for 39 years; the center celebrates its 40th anniversary next year. Many changes have occurred over the four decades, including the name of the center. However, the mission remains the same.
“Our desire is to reach women and men facing a critical pregnancy decision and help them with that pregnancy decision,” Miller said.
In addition to the medical services of pregnancy testing and ultrasound, options education, and parenting and abortion recovery programs, the center provides support for families dealing with infant and pregnancy loss, and just this year, the center partnered with a local church to start an Embrace Grace program.
“It began in the spring and then COVID happened,” Miller said. “We did a drive-in baby shower, people honking their horns and celebrating. That was a unique and sweet experience. Embrace Grace has been a beautiful ministry in our community.”
Another session is planned for the fall.
Returning the love
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Miller and her team have experienced the love and support of their 21,000-person community.
“It’s been like Christmas almost every day … we get packages from Amazon where people are fulfilling our Wish List for diapers and wipes,” Miller said. “The outpouring of love and care from our community, that God continued to put our ministry and our moms with babies on their hearts and minds through all of this – it’s been an emotional experience for our staff. We’ve been in awe what God has done … we wanted to pay (the blessings) forward.”
Several recent clients have received discouraging diagnoses about their pregnancies, Miller added; two of them came to the blessing bags event. They ended up encouraging each other.
“It was neat to see how the two clients ministered to one another, walking in those shoes together,” Miller said. “It was just so amazing … I call them ‘miracles from Heaven.”
Additionally, a woman from the community, who recently learned her one-year-old daughter has cancer, showed up specifically for prayer support.
“When we got to her window, she said, ‘I’m really here for the prayer,” recalled Miller. “I just found out my one-year-old daughter in the back seat has been diagnosed with cancer, and I’m just so overwhelmed; I just want somebody to pray with me. I don’t know what to do with this news.’
“She was so encouraged by the time she left,” Miller said. “She felt so much hope for her situation.”
Despite the cold that day, 82 of the 100 bags were given out. In addition to the material items, something else was given.
“It was our chance to be the hands and feet of Christ in the middle of this pandemic when people were in need of hope,” Miller said.