A gentle reminder: support your local pregnancy aid center

Permit me to nudge aside some of the end-of-year charitable appeals in your inbox in favor of this: a reminder of some of the great agencies in New Hampshire that specialize in supporting women who are pregnant in challenging circumstances.

You’ll find pregnancy AND parenting support at these agencies, any of which would be very happy to receive your support as a donor or a volunteer.

This link offers contact information for every organization listed here. If you are aware of any updates, please let me know – thank you! Several of these agencies have Facebook pages with frequently-updated information about current needs.

Birthright has offices in Manchester, Derry, and Portsmouth.

CareNet has ten affiliates in New Hampshire.

Pennacook Pregnancy Center is just a block away from Planned Parenthood in Manchester.

New Generation in Greenland provides shelter for homeless pregnant and parenting women. In addition to having volunteer and donation opportunities for supporters, New Generation has its Second Generation Thrift Shoppe to provide an easy way for you to support the ministry.

Our Place, a ministry of New Hampshire Catholic Charities, supports young parents from pregnancy through the first three years of their child’s life.

When you look for local agencies that make a difference in the lives of New Hampshire families, be sure to keep these in mind.

Pregnancy help centers offer ways you can help, close to home

personalThanksgiving has mellowed my Facebook feed, for a few days at least. Political disputes have given way to photos of family reunions, accounts of recipes that did or didn’t work, and cheerful appeals from area service agencies. One post in particular (embedded below) stood out today: a 17-year-old described how she organized a drive to collect items needed by clients of local pregnancy care centers.

I shared the post on Leaven’s Facebook feed, and I got a message from a reader: could I point out the new address (after many years on Kelley Street) for Manchester, New Hampshire’s Birthright? “Our clients have found us, our donors have not!”

Glad to do so: 247 South Main Street, Manchester. That’s next to Sacred Heart Church. Look for the Bishop Gendron building with the Sacred Heart food pantry. To confirm hours, call 603-668-3443.

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If you’ve never checked out this blog’s page of New Hampshire crisis pregnancy resource agencies that do not refer for abortion, I invite you to do so. Some have web pages with a list of needed supplies. All would undoubtedly welcome financial help. Some have ongoing projects, like CareNet’s baby bottle drives. Perhaps you’re a member of a service group that could “adopt” a pregnancy care center to meet ongoing needs.

To all who are already working or volunteering or donating in support of this work, thanks. The rest of us can pitch in anytime, without going too far. The links on this blog will give you contact information for agencies in Manchester, Nashua, Concord, Portsmouth, Rochester, Dover, Claremont, Littleton, Keene, Laconia, Plymouth and West Lebanon.

Let a 17-year-old inspire you.


Congratulations to Dr. Varasteh

Noted with pleasure: Concord physician Nicole Varasteh, M.D. has received well-deserved recognition. Here’s an excerpt from a Diocese of Manchester press release, following the annual Summer Reception for the Bishop’s Annual Charitable Fund.

Nicole Varasteh, M.D.  E. Kolb photo.
Nicole Varasteh, M.D.
E. Kolb photo.

A highlight of the Summer Reception came when Bishop Libasci presented the inaugural Vita et Caritas Award to Dr. Nicole Varasteh of Concord. The award, given in memory of the late Ruthie Ford, recognizes a volunteer who demonstrates exceptional service to a non-profit organization assisting women, children and families. Dr. Varasteh is the Volunteer Medical Director of the CareNet Pregnancy Center of Greater Concord and the CareNet Pregnancy Center of Manchester and Nashua. She is an OB/GYN physician, and is also the mother of five children. On her nomination form one person wrote, “Her faith and commitment to life are evidenced in all that she does. Her belief that each life is created in the image of God drives her to do all that she can to protect life and to treat each individual with dignity and respect.”

Learn more about Care Net in Manchester and Nashua at carenetnh.org. Learn more about the Bishop’s Annual Charitable Fund, including how to apply for grants, at http://www.catholicnh.org/about/giving/bcaf/ .


“My heart is with the woman who has had an abortion”

Karen Colageo speaks to 40DFL volunteers.
Karen Colageo speaks to 40DFL volunteers.

CareNet volunteer Karen Colageo was the featured speaker at the closing gathering for Manchester, New Hampshire’s 40 Days for Life winter campaign. She’s been a post-abortion counselor for more than a decade. “I’m here to speak about abortions, not ‘abortion.’ Specific events. Private, emotionally wrenching experiences. The stories you need to hear are the individual testimonies.” The abortions she experienced herself were an important factor in her eventual work. “My heart is with the woman who has had an abortion.”

Colageo is married to a local Lutheran pastor, and her post-abortion-counseling work includes use of a Bible study called “Forgiven and Set Free.” Does that put off some of the women she tries to reach? “It grieves me, really, when nonbelievers avoid the program because it’s a Bible study.” She described one such woman who gave the program a second look after she was unsatisfied with other attempts at post-abortion counseling.  “She came back to me and said ‘I’ve tried everything else; what have I got to lose?'”

Several years after having her abortions, she bore a child whose arrival nudged open a spiritual door. “I had a beautiful baby girl. Despite what I had done, God had entrusted me with a beautiful child, an unmerited gift.” Coming to terms with her earlier abortions was a gradual and difficult process, and Colageo is frank about the religious dimension to her healing as she realized she had taken the lives of her other children. Through her involvement in a church community, she learned about CareNet and sought counseling there, her first encounter with the “Forgiven and Set Free” program. “Finally, someone allowed me to grieve, and applied the healing words of the Gospel to my open wounds. We learned to pray with David [Psalm 51]: ‘a broken, contrite heart, O Lord, you will not despise.'”

She fully accepts the estimate that one in three women will have an abortion by age 45. “Be careful what you say. There are a lot of broken women out there. Condemnation does no good. Women must be saved as well as children. We cannot forget that.” She says about her work, “Women need to know their abortions can be forgiven. They can turn death into life. I’ve seen truly broken women come alive.”

The evening’s gathering also served as a baby shower for four area agencies serving pregnant women and young parents: Birthright, CareNet, the Pennacook Pregnancy Center, and Our Place.

The next 40 Days for Life campaign is scheduled to begin September 23.



Thumbs Up to Pregnancy Care Centers, I Hope

The NH Senate HHS committee held its hearing on HCR 31 today and approved it 4-1. This resolution commending the work of pregnancy care centers (PCCs) called forth the usual naysayers, but they were far outshone this afternoon by three outstanding advocates.

In case “pregnancy care center” is ambiguous – poor Sen. Kelly couldn’t quite come to terms with it – let me explain: it is a place where pregnant women in crisis can come for anything except abortion. Anyone can come through the door for information, counseling, and practical assistance, whether pregnant or not, whether male or female. CareNet is the most famous example of a pregnancy care center, with several CareNets operating in NH. Most services are free, and in NH, CareNet relies on private donations and an extensive volunteer network. Medical professionals assist with ultrasounds, and referrals to obstetric care are available.

Kathleen Molway of Concord CareNet and Katherine Anderson, RN, of the Pregnancy Resource Center of the Monadnock Region told the senators about the work they do and the women they serve. Jeanneane Maxon, AUL’s VP of External Affairs and a former general counsel to CareNet, offered information about PCC policies and support nationwide. By the time these three women were finished giving their calm and straightforward testimony, opponents of the resolution sounded pathetic. Terms like “anti-choice” and “deceptive” rang pretty hollow once Kathleen, Katherine, & Jeanneane had spoken.

HCR 31 had ten co-sponsors, led by Rep. Kathy Lauer-Rago (R-Franklin).  Full Senate action will come sometime later this month. In the meantime, I recommend writing a check to your local PCC, Birthright, or even Americans United for Life. You’ll be doing some good and you’ll be annoying all the right people.