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‘Critical’ care for women, babies continues at restored WCC

womens care center

Women's Care Center counselor and ultrasonographer Kathy Ayers operates an ultrasound machine at the crisis pregnancy center in Hammond on Feb. 21. Restored after a 2016 fire, the office promotes alternatives to abortion and provides women with educational support, as well as baby toiletries and clothes. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)


by Anthony D. Alonzo

Northwest Indiana Catholic


HAMMOND – A layer of soot, broken glass and the smell of burnt embers greeted staff members of Women’s Care Center in Hammond on the morning of Jan. 26, 2016. The arson-related fire that gutted the adjacent attorney’s office resulted in material losses for the crisis pregnancy center, yet only a short disruption in service for its clients. 

       After a nine-month fire and water damage remediation process and a review by Hammond building inspectors, WCC manager Stefanie Herrera and staff began to decorate and supply the “cozy and inviting” office at 7127 Indianapolis Boulevard late last year.

       “I think the (restoration) has made a huge difference because (clients) can actually feel the warmth that is in here,” Herrera said. “That’s what we want, we want the women to feel that way, because, at this point, they are unsure and may not have support, even from family.

       “When you have that open heart, people can feel that,” Herrera added.

       Within days of the fire last winter, Herrera said the crisis pregnancy center was seeing clients from a temporary office housed in the Catholic Charities location just a city block from their damaged workspace.

       A ministry of Catholic Charities and one of 25 affiliated midwest locations, the Women’s Care Center addresses concerns of women who are experiencing an unexpected pregnancy or maternity during difficult circumstances. They offer confidential counseling, prenatal care classes and ongoing support including a “Crib Club” where mothers can redeem vouchers for baby care items.

       WCC, strategically located next to a Planned Parenthood, sees an average of seven clients daily.

       Herrera said she and her staff members direct clients to a growing number of resources available for expectant mothers. “Gently and with love,” they guide one woman at a time to life-affirming decisions, assuring them they will not be alone or without support.

       Hired the day before the blaze, counselor Elizabeth Acevedo said the agency remained effective even when working out of a small room. Acevedo showed photos of a baby named Daniel, whose mother had been counselled at the WCC months ago.  

       “I am determined to find resources for our parents so they know they can get help in any situation,” said Acevedo, whose dedication to the cause is partly because one of her children was born as a tiny preemie.  

       While funding for the clean-up effort was an insurance matter, WCC staff members worked on their ideas to make better use of their renovated space. Three counseling rooms, a baby supplies area, a small lobby and an ultrasound room were appointed with new carpeting, contemporary furnishings and smile-evoking art.  

       Staff members said miraculously untouched by fire damage was a room that housed ultrasound technology. On Feb. 21, longtime pediatric nurse Kathy Ayers arrived for her first day of work at the crisis pregnancy center. She will operate the advanced scanning equipment, which allows parents to see their child in utero.

       During the office’s restoration, ultrasound services were not available for clients.

       Ayers, who views her new position as a counselor and ultrasonographer as more of a ministry than a job, said the ultrasound is the best visual tool to promote the right to life of an unborn child.

       “I see this as an extension of (my previous work in) pediatric home health in helping these babies and helping these moms choose life,” said Ayers, who worked with families of neonatal intensive care infants.

       Noting the warm friendly environs of the refurbished office, diocesan Catholic Charities executive director Jennifer Dyer said the WCC will continue to operate as a key social services ministry.

       “(The WCC) is critical to these women who are in crisis and trying to come to terms with how they will move forward.”

       To support the work of the Women’s Care Center, call 554-1774.


womens care center 2

A rubber ducky is pictured among baby toiletries at the Women's Care Center in Hammond on Feb. 21. The crisis pregnancy center was recently restored after a 2016 fire, to offer women counseling, medical referrals, and baby care items, while promoting life-affirming decisions.

(Anthony D. Alonzo photo)


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