Brenda DesOrmeaux depends on the grace of God and the generosity of the people of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, to support the DesOrmeaux Foundation’s mission of defending human life — the born and unborn — at all stages of development.
With more than 60 parishes in the diocese each raising $3,000 to $4,000 annually from baby-bottle campaigns, parish groups holding baby showers and people donating to the Baby & Me Boutique, the foundation is able to provide crisis pregnancy services, a residential maternity home and a thrift shop for girls and women who need assistance for themselves and their families.
“I can’t tell you how important this is. The baby-bottle fundraisers are our main source of income,” she said. “We’ve gotten everything from pennies to checks for $10,000.”
Crisis pregnancy centers and services all over the country benefit from the popular baby-bottle campaigns. The concept is simple: Plastic baby bottles are distributed in parishes, people fill them with coins, currency and checks, and the money is donated to benefit local pro-life organizations.
Many of the drives are organized by Knights of Columbus councils.
“Our main focus for pro-life is providing ultrasound machines across the country, and we encourage our councils to be involved in pro-life activities,” said Joe Cullen of the communications department at the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut. “Many of them do baby-bottle projects as part of being there for moms and their babies. We want children to be born, and once they are born, we want to give them help and be there for them in a practical way.”
The Knights in the Diocese of Lafayette provide bottles to participating churches.
“This lets people know what we are doing, and involves the whole church community,” DesOrmeaux said. “It’s such a beautiful thing.”
The Archbishop Elder Council of the Knights of Columbus in Cincinnati runs the baby-bottle campaign at St. Gertrude Church on the northeast side of the city.
“We’ve raised over $40,000 in six years,” Grand Knight Tom Hahn said. “It’s been pretty successful because the parishioners are so generous. We donate to Old St. Mary’s Pregnancy Center .... They don’t do any kind of fundraisers because they depend on the Good Lord to provide. This is one way that we can help them in their mission to help women and young people.”
The center is run by 15 volunteers, including a Carmelite nun and three seminarians. Director Terri Huwel is grateful for St. Gertrude’s support. “We have helped over 10,000 women, and we know lives are being saved,” she said.
Showered with gifts
Parishioners at St. Anne Church in Youngsville, Louisiana, participate in a baby-bottle fundraiser, and they also hold an annual baby shower between two Sunday Masses. Refreshments are served to people who drop off gifts that fulfill the foundation’s wish list.
“I call them six weeks before the shower to find out what they need,” pastoral aide Debbie Miller said. “It’s always successful, and the back of my SUV is always filled with blankets, diapers, clothes and whatever is requested. Some of our parishioners crochet baby blankets and little booties and hats.”
DesOrmeaux was pro-life director for the Diocese of Lafayette when the Women’s Center opened in 1999. Two years later, she had gone out on her own with the center, and the new foundation opened a maternity home plus the Baby & Me Boutique that has everything from bibs to cribs at low prices.
“We are seeing more girls than ever before, and we are helping these young women to make an informed choice,” DesOrmeaux said. “This is all happening by the grace of God. Never in my wildest imagination did I think it would be this successful.”
At St. Stephen Church in Anoka, Minnesota, members of Life Matters, led by Sister Mary Anne Schaenzer, SSND, collaborated with their Women of Wonder parish group to hold a baby shower for WomenSource. The nearby crisis pregnancy center offers pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, resources and referrals, and life-affirming options to women and couples to help them to achieve the best outcome for themselves and their babies.
“They tried to have it like a real shower with games, and they invited the director of the women’s center,” Sister Mary Anne said.
There were drop-off times, too, for parishioners who couldn’t make it to the event.
“We announced it and invited people to come or to bring gifts the weekends before and after,” said Michele Kemmetmueller, leader of the parish Respect Life Ministry. “We wanted everyone to feel like they could contribute.”
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.