When Gerry Cruz, head of a pastoral council in Napa, Calif., Invited his friend and pro-life community leader Ron Maxson to speak last year, he had no idea that 10 months later he would help open a pregnancy center next to the city’s family planning.
“The genesis started years ago,” said Cruz. “Our inspiration for the center is Ron Maxson, a strong and ardent warrior for the pro-life movement since Roe vs. Wade.”
Maxson brought the 40 Days of Life campaign to Napa “by praying in front of Planned Parenthood and hosting peaceful vigils,” said Cruz.
Last February, he asked Maxson to speak to the pastoral council headed by Cruz.
“He wholeheartedly agreed and came to talk to us – he was very inspiring,” said Cruz.
Share a vision
Then the two men chatted.
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“He told me that he had prayed for years while he was in front of Planned Parenthood to say how wonderful it would be to have a center for women in crisis next to Planned Parenthood,” said Cruz. “The street is made up of old houses converted into offices. Planned Parenthood is in one of those old houses.
An insurance agency was next to the abortion center at the time, and Maxson learned that the company had decided not to renew its lease.
“[Ron] said ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to buy or lease this building? I don’t know how I could have put it in place, but I prayed about it, ”Cruz recalled.
With a background in banking and real estate, Cruz volunteered to help.
“It was a Tuesday, and on Thursday Ron had organized a stakeholder meeting,” said Cruz. “So we got together, a group of about six or seven of us, to start laying the foundation to see if we could make a proposal to acquire this building. We’ve been very busy during the COVID lockdown putting this in place, but we finally agreed to the terms of the lease with the landlord, who also happens to be very pro-life… In May, we finalized the lease.
The building needed a lot of work, he added. The group also completed nonprofit paperwork, established a board and steering committee, and in early fall prepared to open the pregnancy center, known as Napa Women’s Center. Cruz is chairman of the board.
Heartbeat comes on board
Joanne Andrego, who also serves on the board and the steering committee last year, learned about Heartbeat International by chatting with the director of another pregnancy center in California.
“After this conversation with her, Heartbeat came into my mind, so I started to research [the website] and make phone calls to the organization, ”Andrego said. “I realized how much of a blessing it was… and I reached out. I was very impressed with the authenticity of the staff’s attention when I called.
Andrego asked a Heartbeat staff member she spoke with to pray as the new center prepared to move forward. Soon after, she got a call from Sara Littlefield, Heartbeat International’s Life Launch Grant Specialist.
“Sara got in touch with me… It was an incredible blessing! »Says Andrégo.
“They were a great center to consider,” Littlefield said. “When you look at the grant program, it is designed to support start-up organizations in underserved areas and targeted regions. Because there is family planning in town, we thought [their center] in a targeted community.
Heartbeat’s Life Launch Grant program provides $ 30,000 in funding and training resources to new pregnancy resource centers. These organizations are required to raise $ 30,000 from their community and contacts.
“We were fortunate not to have to start from scratch,” said Cruz.
Maxson had started a pro-life nonprofit called Napa Valley Culture of Life, an organization that “connects people in need to different resources of the pro-life movement,” said Cruz. Napa Women’s Center started as a branch of this organization and received funding. Later, after becoming its own non-profit organization, the entity was able to accept donations, a great advantage.
“It allowed us to get out of the door pretty quickly and be able to take these donations from people to support our mission,” said Cruz.
The partnership with Heartbeat helped set up the center for greater success.
“The grant saved our lives,” Andrego said. “I felt like we were walking alone, trying to find support. When Sara stepped in, she was, and is, a godsend. I told her I needed to hold my hand, and that’s what she provided, guiding us along.
“God definitely played a role – we’ve seen it consistently throughout,” said Cruz. “At the end of the year, we were ready to open the doors.
Open the doors to true choice
Littlefield attended the center soft opening last November; the keynote speaker for the event was Shawn Carney, president of 40 days for life.
In addition to the financial benefits of the Life Launch Grant, the Napa Women’s Center received a website design, The LOVE approach training manual and other resources.
“Having the Heartbeat resources was just an incredible advantage! »Says Andrégo. “Because of this, I think we can serve the women in our community, having the peace of mind that we are doing things the right way, spiritually and legally. We are just very, very grateful!
Tweet this: Having Heartbeat Resources was an amazing benefit – We can serve women knowing we are doing things in the right, spiritual and legal way
The board hired Julie Murillo as executive director. She, along with 13 volunteers, answers the phone, meets with customers, and sets up and stocks the baby shop, among other tasks. When clients come to the Napa Women’s Center, they receive training on STDs, abstinence, fetal development and pregnancy options. Bright Course is used to educate clients and the free pregnancy tests are self-administered, Murillo said.
Planned Parenthood has been a part of the Napa community for decades, but townspeople have welcomed the new pro-life pregnancy center, she added.
“We were lucky to have so many people stop and drop off baby clothes,” Murillo said. “We have a lot!”
The Napa Women’s Center is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., concurrent with Planned Parenthood’s hours of operation. Now, women in the region have a real choice when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
“We know we can serve the women in our community, by providing them with the pregnancy tests and the support, to love them away from having an abortion,” said Andrego.