It’s normal for us to hear from pro-life leaders right around the March for Life in Washington, D.C., which coincides with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. As many readers know, this year’s march, which had been scheduled for Jan. 29, has been transformed into a largely virtual event, due to the effects of the pandemic as well as the rioting that erupted at the U.S. Capitol this month.
In this issue, we’ve gotten out and about covering liturgical events at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as well as a prayerful pro-life protest in White Plains. In Católico de Nueva York in the center section, we also spoke to Hispanic ministry leaders about their plans to support life.
Rita O’Brien, founder and executive director of Emmanuel House International in Carmel, also got in touch with us about her crisis pregnancy center and after-birth services located on Towners Road there.
As you might imagine, the past year hasn’t exactly been the best of times for a non-profit business that depends on donations and fundraisers to support its work for mothers and their babies. When I spoke with Mrs. O’Brien, she was in the midst of a three-day sales and marketing course to help guide and broaden her approach to online donors, a new source of support for Emmanuel House.
Covid-19 forced Emmanuel House’s office to close last March 13, and even today it’s open only by appointment. Mrs. O’Brien and the Emmanuel House board have juggled a lot in the past year. Frankly, she’s been working on behalf of moms and their kids for a long time. Before opening Emmanuel House, she was director of Birthright of Northern Westchester and Putnam before that office closed in 2013.
She explained that part of the problem this past year was that her existing donor base was mostly made up of older parishioners at area churches. A lot of the donations and goods were collected through baby bottle drives. In the months after the coronavirus struck, it became difficult for parishes to maintain their normal level of support and activities. Since churches were closed for three months, in-person appeals at Masses were not possible and past donors weren’t looking for Emmanuel House online.
Little by little, Mrs. O’Brien made a new start. Even though New York state restricted clothing donations in light of Covid-19, she and volunteers are now sorting through donations made before last March, which are still eligible for disbursement.
Mrs. O’Brien’s daughter Katrina has helped her establish an online giving platform for Emmanuel House. Some churches such as St. James the Apostle and St. Denis in Hopewell Junction, her own home parish, continued their support. They and a couple of local Protestant churches have also resumed listings for Emmanuel House in their weekly bulletins.
Christmas was a little different, but thanks in part to the generosity of Toys for Tots of Mahopac and the Kent public library, Emmanuel House was able to help the mothers they assist to provide a toy and a book for their children.
As vaccines allow for the next phase in the recovery from Covid-19, Mrs. O’Brien looks forward to bringing back and recruiting volunteers, including some with special skills such as improving donor relations and building a social media presence.
She would also like to resume “some normality in client visits.” Previously, mothers could drop in whenever they could arrange for a ride to the office, but now appointments must be made one at a time, for health and safety reasons.
This is actually the second piece I have written about Emmanuel House International, www.emmanuelhouseinternational.org. The first was published in 2015, just about two years after Mrs. O’Brien opened the center on Aug. 15, 2013, the feast of the Assumption.
In our recent conversation, she said the reason she selected the name Emmanuel House International was because Emmanuel means “God is always with us.” She thought that would be a comfort to the moms who came for assistance. Many are originally from other lands, and Mrs. O’Brien also noted that she would like to keep open the possibility for future expansion.
“They want to have their babies,” she said of the mothers to be who come to Emmanuel House.
“They are in crisis and don’t know how they are going to do it. It’s a great satisfaction to help them provide a happy, safe home environment for their babies.”
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