Pregnancy Services of Delta County celebrates 40 years of pro-life ministry

Courtesy photo The Pregnancy Services of Delta County board and volunteers celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening of the PSDC center.

ESCANABA — On Tuesday, May 22, Pregnancy Services of Delta County will be hosting an Open House Birthday Bash in honor of turning 40 this year.

A Legacy of Life

It all began in 1978 when Pastor Nicholas Balk of Bethel Evangelical Free Church in Gladstone, which has since closed, was approached by a young lady experiencing a crisis pregnancy. Carol Carlson, founding member of Pregnancy Services of Delta County, remembers well the day that Pastor Balk called her.

“Pastor Balk remembered that I was a part of Delta County Right to Life and asked if we provided direct services for women experiencing a crisis pregnancy,” shared Carlson. “At that time, a woman could call the Community Action Agency and asked for ‘Peg’, which was code that they were experiencing a crisis pregnancy and looking for resources to help them. Community Action provided referrals to doctors, and agencies that could help them after their baby was born, but there weren’t any organizations specifically dedicated to helping women through a crisis pregnancy or those who were post-abortive.”

Seeing the need, Carol and a group of dedicated men and women began to do what they could to provide support, encouragement, and hope for women experiencing unplanned pregnancies, as well as those who had experienced abortion. They began to offer free pregnancy testing, and attended trainings all over the state of Michigan and Wisconsin in order to learn how to effectively minister to women and families in crisis. They also established a helpline that went through Catholic Social Services, and later OSF St. Francis Hospital. Trained volunteers took shifts around the clock, and spoke with women and families experiencing crisis, and in need of healing from past hurts, including abortion.

Daily Press photo In this undated Daily Press photo, two volunteers from Pregnancy Services of Delta County, Maureen Vetter, far left, and Carol Carlson, fourth from the left, were honored with certificates and Seraphim angel figurines. The Board of Directors selected the pair for their dedicated service. Board members include Dr. Mary Whitmer, second from left, Virginia Hallfrisch, Mark Hallfrisch and Pat Archambeau.

“Our ministry began shortly after Roe v. Wade,” stated Carlson. “I began to get calls from pastors in the area at all hours that were being contacted by women in crisis, and an influx of post-abortive women seeking help as well.”

A Promise to God

In 1983, Carol’s son Jerry suffered a horrible accident at the age of 13. He sustained critical injuries, and was left in a coma. “I sat at my kitchen table and prayed,” said Carlson. “Lord, if you let my son live, I will never give up on the unborn.” Carol also promised God that if Jerry had ongoing medical issues she would care for him to the best of her abilities as a mother. Jerry did indeed experience a miraculous recovery, and is now an engineer living in Minnesota with his wife and three children; and Carol kept her promise to care for him and the unborn.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Pregnancy Services of Delta County continued to fulfill their mission, and worked with Caring Hands, HUGS, Dr. Bill LeMire, and Welcome Newborns to connect families with additional resources. Many faith communities were instrumental in helping to build the foundation of the ministry as well. “Our churches were our greatest source of support,” said Carlson.

Eventually, the crisis line was connected directly to Carol’s home. By the year 2000, only a handful of volunteers remained. Carol continued to provide peer counseling, material resources, and community referrals.

“People would call me at all hours of the day and night in need of someone to talk to, or looking for resources to help care for their children,” stated Carol. ” There were times that I would even go to their homes to talk with them or drop off items needed.” Pat Way, who was treasurer at that time, and Carol’s husband Dave continued to help as well.

Another Call, Another Prayer Answered

In 2012, after more than 30 years with PSDC, Carol began to fervently pray for a helping hand.

“I asked the Lord to bring someone who would help me, who would help the ministry.” Through a series of divine appointments in 2014 and unbeknownst to Carol, a handful of people began to talk about the future of Pregnancy Services of Delta County. “I received a call from Hans Whitmer (son of previous board member, Dr. Mary Whitmer),” remembered Carol, “He told me that he was part of a group who wanted to learn more about Pregnancy Services, and how they could help.”

This group included Anne Carlson, Virginia Hallfrisch (president of the ministry in the ’90s), Diane Kobasic, Tara Weaver, and Audra Buchmiller. Together, they organized an ecumenical pro-life prayer service that took place in the spring of that year. For the first time in decades, clergy and congregations from all walks of faith came together — for life. It was announced that only through regular support would Pregnancy Services be able to continue their mission. The pro-life community within Delta County was rejuvenated. Within a matter of days, people had pledged time, talent, and treasure to bring Pregnancy Services from the basement of Carol’s home into the forefront of the community.

A New Beginning

Later that year, PSDC became an affiliate of Heartbeat International, an organization that provides continuing education, resources, and support for pregnancy help ministries worldwide. In March of 2015, they opened their comprehensive pregnancy resource center, and welcomed a new board of directors. From 2015-2016, Virginia Hallfrisch served as the first Director of Operations in the history of Pregnancy Services of Delta County. In 2016, Audra Buchmiller began serving the community as the Executive Director of PSDC. Building on the foundation started in 1978, PSDC continues to offer support, love, education, hope, and encouragement for those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy as well as those with young children. Their services include pregnancy options peer counseling, an Earn While You Learn parenting program, Man 2 Man mentoring for fathers, and post-abortive support for anyone who has ever been affected by abortion. They continue to empower people to make healthy life choices, and they care for them no matter what choice they make.

Leaving a Legacy

If it weren’t for Carol Carlson, and other members of our community who have made PSDC a labor of love for the past 40 years, this ministry would not be here today. More profoundly, there are people in our community that would not be here today. There are men, women, and children who literally owe their lives — and the lives of future related generations — to those who have given time, talent, and treasure to this ministry.

“To those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, you are not alone, we are here to help you understand all of your options,” stated Audra Buchmiller, executive director. “To those who invest their gifts into our ministry, we thank you. To those who want to know more about how you can help, we invite you to join us in building a culture that values and protects life for father, mother, and child. Join us in providing tangible resources and support for women and families experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, and pregnancy loss — including abortion. Join us as we empower families to break free from perpetual cycles of unhealthy choices. Join us in building a legacy of life.”

Pregnancy Services of Delta County is located at 1801 Ludington Street in Escanaba. For more information about services provided, please call (906) 786-7474. The number also serves as their after-hours pregnancy helpline. For a complete list of services, you can also visit their website at pregnancyservicedc.org or find them on Facebook.

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