By Tim Bennett
On September 25th New Hope Family Services hosted their yearly fundraising dinner at the Carnegie Conference Center at Driver’s Village in Cicero, New York. New Hope, a non-profit Christian organization with its main office at 3519 James Street in Syracuse, started over 50 years ago, has grown to the point where it now offers crisis pregnancy counseling, adoption services, ultra sound testing, abstinence education, abortion recovery counseling, and many other related services to the Central New York area.
Lacey Leonardi, Traffic Anchor/Reporter for Time Warner Cable and MC for the evening, warmly welcomed the assembly of the 290 people present, which was followed by the pledge of allegiance and an opening prayer by Pastor Scott Hallman from Westside Community Chapel. Attendees were then called by table to a buffet of ziti, chicken, salad, and cooked vegetables. Cheese cake was served later for dessert. Special music was provided by Nate Maxfield and the Missio Church Worship Band.
Martha Raub, Executive Director of New Hope, shared briefly on some changes at New Hope including her need to limit her own responsibilities due to serious health issues. Judy Geyer is now the “Acting Director.” Other changes included: Judy Ruch, the coordinator for Abstinence Education for the last 17 years, will be taking the position of Development Director while Christine Goldman will be replacing Ruch as Abstinence Education Coordinator; the office on East Genesee Street is now closed; and two satellite offices will be opened at 523 Charles Avenue and 1401 North Salina Street in Syracuse. The Charles Avenue location will be doing the ultra sound testing and the North Salina location is The Neighborhood Church building where crisis pregnancy counseling will be available.
Next up was a video of the recipient of this year’s “Life Choice Award,” which was the testimony of a young woman of Asian descent who had an unplanned pregnancy and chose life for her child. In the video she said she named her daughter, Cherry Blossom, because it symbolized that though she, her mom, had made a mistake she would bloom again like the cherry blossom. After the video, Raub called the woman forward from the audience to receive her honorary plaque amidst an encouraging applause.
During the event, a power point presentation flashed some important statistics about the organization including: seven adoptions so far, this year, 52 ultra sound tests done, 1,566 counseling sessions given, 693 clients served, and 1,289 clients received items from the ‘care corner.’
The main speaker, Kirk Walden, a former director of a crisis pregnancy center and author of The Wall as well as an “Advancement Specialist” with Heartbeat International (the world’s largest supporting organization for the pregnancy help community) spoke candidly about his life and long involvement with the pro-life movement dating back to 1980 when he was 19 years old. Walden said, “In 1980, there were 2000 abortion clinics in the U.S. and now there are only 786. There were only a couple hundred of crisis pregnancy centers then and now there are 2600. Things are getting better.”
Walden also told the heartbreaking story of his wife taking a solo trip across country and never coming back. “She just told me she didn’t want to be a wife and mother anymore,” Walden said. “I became a single father of three small children, ages seven, five, and three, overnight. That was the bad news. The good news is when the family of God surrounds a broken person, no matter what the situation, they can make that person whole again in ways you cannot imagine.” Walden then compared his experience to the pregnancy help centers reaching out to mothers in crisis circumstances and how powerful that can be in bringing healing and restoration. He gave an example of why he needed someone to talk to at that stressful time in his life: “When you have a five-year-old daughter with long blond hair down to her waist and you have to put a gallon of that detangler stuff in her hair just to get her ready for kindergarten, you gotta have someone to vent to.” The audience erupted in laughter.
On a more serious note, Walden later recounted how God eventually linked him up with his current wife and how he had to deal with his own negative attitude in his mid-forties when she announced one day that she was pregnant. “I needed to repent. I needed to change my way of thinking,” Walden said. “The Bible says that children are a blessing from the Lord and the Lord was telling me, ‘I’m trying to give you a gift.’” He went on to say that we, as Christians, also need to repent of our unbelief that we are not going to win the fight against abortion. “Little seeds of doubt can easily come into our thinking,” he said. Overall, Walden’s message was one of perseverance and never giving up on the fight for the unborn and their parents.
In speaking with people at my table, I met two women from Liverpool, Tami Scott and Laura Oberlander, who had both adopted children. Scott, who works as a freelance writer, explained why she came and what she took away: “I get the newsletter and I think that New Hope is a wonderful organization. I thought it was a good way to support New Hope. It was a very nice event and the message was very encouraging and inspiring. It was probably the video testimonial though that moved me the most. ”
Oberlander said: “My husband and I adopted a child through New Hope and we’ve been involved for five years now. I’m glad I finally made it to the banquet.”
The evening closed with a prayer by Ron Wyatt, pastor of The Neighborhood Church. For more information about New Hope Family Services, please visit their website at: www.newhopefamilyservices.com.