April 1, 2023 | Your Stories
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Katie St. Clair with some of the items donated to Birthright from St. Martin Parish’s annual drive. Another truckload full was also donated. COURTESY OF NICOLE GRAY

St. Martin’s annual Birthright drive again exceeds expectations


Birthright began in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1968 when Louise Summerhill, a busy housewife and mother of seven, felt something should be done to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. By offering love, hope, support and resources, Birthright has grown to become a pregnancy support service with hundreds of centers throughout Canada, the United States and Africa.

From the first time Debi Hopkins, director of religious education at St. Martin Parish in Rome, visited Birthright of Owensboro, she knew it was a worthy cause. Birthright’s current location is 512 W. 7th St. in Owensboro, Ky., 42301. (It was once owned by Michael Atherton, who happens to be my father!)   Operated by a director and volunteers, it is open 9 a.m.-12 noon, Monday-Thursday. In just a short visit, you might see a young couple, a single parent, or a grandmother all there to get provisions for one or more infants or small children in their care. Often, donated items seem to fly out the door as soon as they come in. This is basic help to people who need it right then, to care for precious children that might otherwise go without.

January is Respect Life Month, and this January St. Martin Parish had its fifth annual drive for Birthright. The drive has its kickoff on Epiphany. According to Hopkins, St. Martin had not had an annual drive for Birthright since before 2019. She said that the St. Martin Quilting Club has made quilts and donated throughout the years however: “I brought the idea with me from a former parish I worked for, St. Mary Magdalene in Sorgho.”

This year, one of St. Martin Parish’s Confirmation students decided she wanted to help during the annual drive. Katie St. Clair, daughter of Kathleen and Greg St. Clair, said that in her Confirmation class they were asked to do something for church.

“I wanted to do some sort of basket in church, so I asked my parents and Mrs. Hopkins,” said Katie. “They told me if I wanted to have a donation drive, I would need to have a place to donate and I thought Birthright would be a fitting organization.”

Katie was happy to jump in and help with this year’s drive. She and her mother put up a playpen near the entrance of the church and made signs to direct St. Martin parishioners to the drop-off area.

Katie St. Clair holding a onesie sign used for St. Martin Parish’s annual drive for Birthright. In the background is St. Martin Parish’s pro-life billboard. COURTESY OF NICOLE GRAY

“The items in most need are all sizes of diapers and all types of formula,” said Hopkins. “Also needed are anything baby, toddler, children up to age 6, like clothing, shoes, and bedding. The condition does not have to be new, but should be clean and in good condition.”

When Katie started this project, she said was freaking out a little bit because she is young and can’t drive. She had to make phone calls that she usually saw her mom make, so it scared her because she’d never done anything like it before.

“If a young person wants to try something like this it’s going to be a little scary and you’ll feel like you can’t do it because you’re ’just a kid’ and can’t drive, but you can do it and it’ll all be worth it, and you will feel so good because you know it is for a good cause,” said Katie. She said that when you have an idea, to talk to an adult or ask if they know something you can do, because there will always be something that you can do to help someone else.

Hopkins echoed that, and said young and older people alike can help in simple ways such as:

  • Ask Birthright what they currently need, and then be mindful of sales and bargains to gather what you can. When you have filled a box or bag, take it to them.
  • Donate your time. Older people can volunteer to help people who come in and to answer calls that come in. Young and old can help put away donations and keep things organized.
  • If you are financially able to help, any donation goes a long way when Birthright needs to fill specific needs, such as prescriptions and special formulas.

A new mother once told Hopkins this story. She had gone into Target to get a pack of diapers. When she picked the package up, she noticed the package had been previously opened, and very carefully and neatly closed. Maybe 4-5 diapers were missing. She said her heart sank when she envisioned someone, a mom most likely, carefully taking out those few diapers to perhaps get through one day. They were risking detection; it was theft, after all. The image she related to me is one I have often recalled when I think of Birthright. It is an image that, in fact, says it all.

Nicole Gray is the director of communications for St. Martin Parish in Rome, Ky.

Originally printed in the April 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
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