Women’s Care Center fulfilling its mission of caring in Merrillville


Christy Ores, counselor and ultrasound technician at the Women's Care Center in Merrillville, views ultrsound images of an unborn baby stored on the Voluminous P8 ultrasound machine, on Nov. 19. Ores said clients can request a free ultrasound and see the development of their child in utero. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)



Northwest Indiana Catholic


      MERRILLVILLE – Less than one year after opening, the second Women’s Care Center in the Diocese of Gary is well beyond taking baby steps, serving expectant mothers and their growing families in a myriad of ways.

      From free pregnancy tests to parenting classes, WCC follows in the footsteps of its older sibling in Hammond to support women who choose to give birth and either raise their baby or opt for adoption.

      “We do everything we can to support every mother and show her we care about her and her baby, and even older children,” said Christy Ores, sonographer/ultrasound counselor since the Merrillville center opened Jan. 8. The largest pregnancy resource center in the U.S., WCC is headquartered in South Bend, where it was founded in 1984 and has grown to include 29 centers in 10 states.

      “Any women can become a client at any time, and we spend at least an hour on their first visit, because we want to get to know them so we can best tailor our program to their needs,” Ores explained. “A woman may not be ready for a pregnancy test on her first visit. She may already have another child, need insurance or help choosing a doctor. We have access to a wide range of community resources.”

      According to Father Mark Pranaitis, executive director of Catholic Charities Diocese of Gary, WCC’s sponsor, the Merrillville WCC has provided 839 services for 370 women, and is currently awaiting the birth of 167 babies after having recorded 258 positive pregnancy tests. “It usually takes about year to get up to speed, but the Merrillville center is doing quite well and serving a growing clientele,” he said.

      Ores said the center, at 8500 Broadway, is hoping to hire an additional counselor after the holidays, while she handles clients now with occasional help from Hammond center staff. Hours remain 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on other weekdays. Women are welcome regardless of income or religion, and can call 472-8059 for an appointment or walk in.

      “No women leaves any visit empty-handed,” Ores said. “They each receive at least one item from our clothing, food/toiletries and furniture pantries.”

      Already a certified Child Passenger Seat technician trained to install child safety seats, Ores will add the state-funded Sleep Safe Program to WCC offerings this month, teaching parents how to safely place a baby for sleeping. “We want to discourage co-sleeping and lower the danger of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” she said.

      “We have a bunch of different classes, from our First Time Moms Club to specific classes on the birthing process, breastfeeding, family relationships and other topics.

      “Sometimes a mom can’t attend classes due to school or work, so we offer one-on-one counseling,” Ores added. For every class attended, mothers receive a Crib Club coupon to shop in the baby store, where diapers, new clothing, strollers and cribs are displayed. “They may need to save up their coupons for a bigger item, but we try to stock whatever they might need,” Ores said.

      Not long ago, Ores recalled, “A gentleman came in asking what we needed. I took him around the Crib Club, then he went straight to Meier’s and bought $550 of merchandise. We have tremendous support from the community, local parishes, groups and individuals.”

      One of those groups is the Labors of Love Ministry at St. Michael the Archangel in Schererville, which makes baby blankets and beanie babies, and donates books, jewelry and toiletries for moms. “I’m all for helping mothers help their babies,” said facilitator Kathy Jablonski. “If we can do any little thing to bring them joy, God blessed us with the talent and treasure to offer help and support to other women.

      Janet Sienicki and Joe Kern, of Schererville, leaders of the St. Gianna Molla Respect Life Group at Our Lady of Consolation in Merrillville, recently came up with a unique way to support WCC. Planning their wedding, they asked guests to bring baby items in lieu of wedding gifts. “We received diapers and lots of gift cards, which we used to shop for blankets, washcloths, books and more,” said Sienicki.

      “We have built a lot of relationships and done a lot of networking,” Ores said. “We are so appreciative of all the support.”



The exterior of the Women's Care Center at 8500 Broadway, suite B, in Merrillville, is pictured on Nov. 19. Catholic Charities and other diocesan as well as non-Catholic organizations support the crisis pregnancy center through donations and volunteering. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)



Donated slippers and clothing are pictured in the Crib Club room at the Women's Care Center in Merrillville, on Nov. 19. Counselor and ultrsound technician Christy Ores said clients earn credits for participation in educational offerings and can select clothing, toiletries or toys from the office. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

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