Monday, 04 December 2023

Tampa Bay Pregnancy Center Harnessing Power of Connectedness

“I took a leap of faith and God has been so good.” This is how Jeanne Whitely, who manages Foundations of Life, a multi-location pregnancy help organization in Hernando County, Fla., begins the story of her journey with the center.

It was when Whitely was preparing to send her son off to college that her thoughts began circling around where she would invest her time. Having struggled with infertility before becoming a mom, she knew the importance of motherhood, the blessing of children and value of educating women for this very significant role. 

“I decided the starting place would be to volunteer with the respect life ministry at church, and that is what ultimately led to my connection with Foundations of Life,” Whitely said.

In 2011, the previous Foundations manager retired and Whitely felt led to apply. 

“God lined everything up and I was hired on part-time. Everything evolved from there and within months of coming onboard, the center experienced rapid growth,” she said. 

The most immediate change at the organization came in December 2011, when Foundations of Life added limited ultrasound services for the first time.

With the increased reach to families, the center began to outgrow their space. By 2012, Foundations of Life moved to its current location, with Whitely moving from part-time to full-time. Since the move, the center has added a dedicated ultrasound and mentoring room. 

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The services available to moms and dads at the Hernando County location may begin with a free pregnancy test, but goes beyond the birth of the baby. 

“What we offer equips the women and men so they are able to lead successful and productive lives going forward,” Whitely said. “We believe what is going to truly help the families we serve is healthy encouragement, education and mentoring. We offer a hand up rather than a hand out.”

Acting as an outreach ministry for the Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg, Foundations of Life operates in seven locations, serving 25 Florida counties with five pregnancy center locations and two adoption offices. The organization also serves post-abortive women through Project Rachel.

Whitely believes their integration within the community helps meet that goal and is growing a culture of stability. 

“The families that we serve know the items they receive are completely donated from a community that wants to help them, so they feel they are part of a larger group of people that goes beyond our walls,” Whitely said. “Everyone is a step ahead of another and usually the families that we help want to pay it forward to those who are where they have been.” 

In addition, the referrals the center receives through state and local partnerships help with Foundations of Life’s life-affirming vision as well. The organization functions as a hub for women and families dealing with county health departments, unemployment offices, and material aid in the form of car seats, housing and WIC. Whitely hopes to add a fatherhood program within the coming year.  

Tweet This: #prolife pregnancy help out-numbers #abortion, 27-17, in #TampaBay.

The full suite of services Foundations of Life has at its disposal is key in the battle for lives in the area. A Yellow Pages search for abortion clinics in Tampa Bay, for instance—home to 2.8 million residents—turns up 17 separate listings.

Thanks to efforts like Foundations for Life, which also includes Knights Women’s Center next to an abortion clinic in Tampa, there are actually more life-affirming options—27 according to Heartbeat International’s Worldwide Directory of Pregnancy Help—in the Tampa Bay area than there are abortion clinics.

“It is very important that our help and resources are present within the community,” Whitely said. “Our Knights Women’s Center has clients regularly who come in because they were looking for the abortion clinic in the area and their GPS led them to us for whatever reason. We jokingly refer to GPS in those cases as, ‘God’s Positioning System.’”

Recounting a story about one such divinely-led pregnant mom, Whitely said the mom was not able to get a hold of the abortion provider, so she ended up coming into her office. 

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“She had three developmentally disabled children already, she struggled with addiction, she previously had two or three prior abortions and to add to it all, her mother and husband were pressuring her to abort this baby,” Whitely said. “Everything and everyone in her life was trying to point her to have another abortion. But God brought her to us and because of our mentoring program, prenatal development and parenting education and the support we were able to give to her, she continued her pregnancy. She gave birth to a healthy baby that was free from any disabilities.” 

“It’s stories like these that give us reassurance as to why we are here and do what we do,” Whitely said. “If we can help just one woman by giving her the encouragement and hope she needs to see that she is worth more than what she is being told by culture, and even those around her, and to help her see that abortion is not the only choice she has—that’s all it takes.”

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