By NANCY SCHWERIN
In 1979, Birthright opened its doors in the Greenville community with the help of the Diocesan Development Fund. Twenty-two years later the outreach organization is growing steadily helping pregnant women achieve life.
“Every day is a new experience,” said Sandi Davidson, director for the past five years.
She has a devoted staff of volunteers, which includes trained advisors who meet with the women in person or over the phone. Other personnel volunteer their time working shop hours, making baby blankets, doing office work, writing thank you notes, transporting clients to appointments, and organizing baby and maternity clothes. One volunteer, whom Davidson has never met, makes baby booties. When a woman has a positive pregnancy test she is given a pair of booties.
“The baby booties come in all colors. We ask them to pick a pair. It produces a pretty big smile on some of their faces,” said the director.
In 2000, the organization helped 880 women.
Davidson said their clients are all ages and races, but they are still striving to broaden their reach. Recent outreach efforts have included working with the Hispanic and Vietnamese communities. Davidson has also given talks at area high schools, although she said it’s often difficult getting in to high schools.
While Birthright is strictly confidential, teen-age girls are encouraged to talk with their parents. They are given information on talking with their parents, and, if need be, volunteers offer to accompany them.
The organization’s volunteers put their time in for free, while Davidson and Assistant Director Sue Burman, work for a nominal fee.
One volunteer said that she gives her time to Birthright because she believes in the work they do.
Birthright stories vary greatly: a pregnant 12-year-old (she gave birth to her child) and a 14-year-old who wasn’t pregnant, but wanted to be. After talking with Birthright volunteers, she realized she hadn’t given much thought to the responsibilities. A woman in her 50s came into Birthright, wondering what kind of service they provide. She talked with volunteers for awhile, finally sharing her own story of having an abortion. Clearly distraught over the memory, she was referred to a counselor.
Davidson said future funding will go toward advertising. They are particularly looking to gain local support for the Clemson office.
“Once word gets out, it usually has a snowball effect,” she said.
In the past they have run cinema ads, which run before movies in the theater, placed billboard ads and ads in local athletic programs.
A regular newsletter helps to draw private funding, and Birthright has also been a recipient of funds from the annual Greenville Mardi Gras Charity Ball.
The director said that operating expenses are a problem because finding funding for day-to-day activities is difficult. She said that grants usually are given for specific projects.
For decades and through various challenges, the organization has stood firmly behind their cause and looks to continue on well into the future. A letter in a recent grant application from Birthright states: “We evangelize our clients by our love and our example. Hopefully in our concern for them they will see the love of God in us. … We build community by our life-saving efforts. Our presence promotes the pro-life cause.”
Soon, Birthright will be searching for a new director, as Davidson has plans to move out of state.
“One of the hardest things I’ll have to do is leave Birthright,” she said. “It’s everything I stand for. It’s a wonderful organization and does a lot of good work.”