By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – CENLA Pregnancy Center supporters are celebrating a successful start to the annual baby bottle fundraiser, buoyed by the news of a record pace in giving.
Since January, 19 churches and groups have raised $38,000 through donations collected in baby bottles, surpassing last year’s total of $25,000. Another 11 churches and groups indicated they, too, will participate this year, causing CPC Director Claire Lemoine to suggest that donations could exceed the all-time high of $50,000 that was collected in 2018, the first year CENLA Pregnancy Center was fully operational.
Lemoine told the Baptist Message she briefly considered opting out of the baby bottle fundraiser this year because so many people are struggling financially due to the pandemic’s economic impact. Instead, she said, she was moved to proceed, and since her staff began reaching out in December, the response by churches has been overwhelming.
“The Lord showed me late last year that people were ready to do something because so much has been absent from their lives that they knew before the COVID protocols set in,” Lemoine said. “Once the donations started coming in, God was affirming that we had persevered and He was rewarding us.”
Lemoine said during the last 12 months the pregnancy center has faced multiple challenges because of the pandemic: a state mandated two-week closure in March (while abortion centers were still operating); extra safety protocols after reopening in April; and fewer volunteers for most of the spring and summer. However, donations have remained steady; and the center has been able to continue providing compassionate support to women and men faced with difficult pregnancy decisions.
Though the pandemic canceled the annual Gift of Life Banquet last year, the pregnancy center’s largest fundraiser will return on Sept. 14. Additional details will come later, Lemoine noted.
“This past year has affirmed God’s presence and protection on this ministry,” Lemoine said. “And it has also affirmed the importance of our existence, which is to show women the hope they have in Jesus Christ and he values the life of them and their child.”
Pineville Park Baptist Church in Pineville is among the churches and organizations collecting baby bottles. Pastor Jeremy Shepherd said his congregation raised 800 dollars in their campaign.
“Many on the pro-choice side often criticize pro-life movement as only caring about babies up until the time they are born,” Shepherd said. “CENLA Pregnancy Center is our opportunity to demonstrate to the world that we not only care about babies, pre-birth, but we care about the spiritual, physical, and mental well-being of their entire family. Most importantly, every woman who comes through the door hears the Gospel. The money donated by your church also allows mothers and fathers the ability to take classes and gain items for their baby, post birth. We have a tremendous opportunity to impact some of the most vulnerable people at a time where many would shun them. You will not regret supporting this incredible ministry.”
Located at 1254 MacArthur Drive in Alexandria, next to the Louisiana Baptist Building, the center since it opened Dec. 4, 2017, has served 827 women through pregnancy decision coaching by trained advocates, free pregnancy tests, free ultrasounds, information about pregnancy options, maternity and physical resources and post-decision support including parenting education and abortion recovery groups.
Churches, other organizations as well as individuals interested in participating in the baby bottle campaign can visit the CENLA Pregnancy Center office, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Donations to the pregnancy center can be made at cenlapc.com or by mail, P.O. Box 13907, Alexandria, LA 71315.