The Gabriel Project: 1st Choice for Women
Writer / Joyce Long
Great Lakes Gabriel Project
1st Choice for Women
Call Megan Conway at 317-213-7539 for information or for an appointment for peer counseling, a pregnancy test or an ultrasound. All services are free and confidential.
To donate indoor parking space for the 23-foot-long mobile ultrasound unit, call 812-342-9550.
To donate monetarily, send checks to:
Great Lakes Gabriel Project (GLGP)
To donate baby items and new or gently used clothing for the mothers, call 317-515-7269.
Mention the name Gabriel and many immediately think of the angel who announced Jesus’ birth. But they may not know the Gabriel Project is all about birthdays. Ask the all-volunteer network of the Great Lakes Gabriel Project, a regional outreach to women with unplanned pregnancies.
When pregnant women contact their office located on West 86th Street, many are concerned they won’t be able to support their child, according to Executive Director Eileen Hartman. They are offered counseling, an explanation of available resources and a free ultrasound at 1st Choice for Women, also at the same location. Abortions are not offered or referred.
If the woman decides to continue her pregnancy, they direct her to a local church to trained lay counselors, referred to as Angels. In Saints Francis and Clare Catholic Church, eight Angels minister in pairs. One of those volunteers has a deep admiration for mothers who choose life. Donna Kelker and her husband, Tim, adopted their daughter in October 1982. Kelker, recently trained as an Angel, wants to help those who decide to keep their babies. “As Angels, we’re here to support the mother emotionally and spiritually — to be her friend and direct her to resources that can help,” said Kelker.
According to the Rev. Vince Lampert, “The Gabriel Project is one of the ways that the parishioners of Saints Francis and Clare make a positive difference in the lives of men and women who have been blessed with the gift of a new life.”
Christina Lopez, Gabriel Project’s SSFC’s coordinator and an Angel, also became involved because of a mother — hers. She watched her mother serve in the Gabriel Project in 1999 when it was first introduced to Indiana. Lopez enjoys “seeing the relationships between the Angels and their mothers grow. It’s sharing God’s love with them. It’s coming to them collaboratively, not like ‘I’m doing this for you.’”
As coordinator, Lopez focuses on communication and organizing the parish’s monthly meetings. “Gabriel Project has been around for a while, but for our parish, it’s new, so we’re still evolving. Communication is key, along with learning as we go along,” said Lopez. One of her challenges is learning how to help the young mothers with such problems as homelessness and transportation needs.
Also active in SSFC’s Gabriel Project, Jim and Ann Recasner use their basement to store baby items such as clothing, diapers, crib mattresses, toys and strollers. The parish is planning a baby shower in May to help stock infant supplies and new or gently used clothing for the mothers they support.
The Recasners also assist Judy York, chairperson of the parish’s 40 Days for Life prayer campaign that began Wednesday, March 5, and ends Sunday, April 13. An international program that began in Texas, 40 Days for Life assigns times throughout the week for volunteers to pray near places that perform abortions. Since its start in 2007, 600,000 people and 16,500 churches have become involved.
Because the Great Lakes Gabriel Project is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, opportunities to serve abound. Hartman provides sonogram training for nurses so that free ultrasounds can be offered at no cost for pregnant women. Each nurse completes 50 practice ultrasounds to fulfill requirements from the College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Any pregnant woman can invite family members to view her free ultrasound at 1st Choice for Women. “It’s a way of spreading joy about life,” said Hartman.
On the horizon for the Great Lakes Gabriel Project, which also has volunteers in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and New York, is a mobile ultrasound unit. In February, Hartman and a board member stopped at an Indianapolis recreational vehicle show and met Ken Eckstein of Mount Comfort RV. Soon Eckstein, his wife, Gail, and their son, Russell, were not only willing to sell the Gabriel Project an RV at cost but also wanted to get involved as volunteers. They have raised $30,000 to purchase a 2013 Coachman Freelander Motorhome, but $30,000 is still needed.
Looking back, Hartman first learned about the Gabriel Project through her local parish, St. Bartholomew, in Columbus. It began ecumenically with two Christian leaders, Rex Moses, a local evangelical pastor, and Kathy McConn, a representative from the Roman Catholic Church, speaking at a community event May 1, 1999. It didn’t take long for Hartman to catch both their passion and their vision to help women with unplanned pregnancies.
“We’re a women’s rights organization. We help those who are abortion-minded, abortion-vulnerable, and those who are simply poor. We support them when they choose life. We also support them when they don’t,” said Hartman.
Joyce Long, Greenwood Middle School language arts teacher from 1992-2000, has called Center Grove home for the past 25 years. Currently Joyce works as the communications coordinator for Center for Global Impact and is passionate about engaging people to empower the poor.