When talking to the ladies who direct activities at the All Babies Cherished Family Assistance Center, it quickly becomes clear that the nonprofit, pro-life agency could easily be called “All People Cherished.”
“We advocate for people,” said Program Coordinator Mona Doyon, during an interview with The Batavian at the ABC home at 445 Ellicott St. “We give them the resources they need and help them to realize that they can keep their child. A lot of them come here really scared and overwhelmed, and then they realize that they can do it.
“They make a choice for life and we do our best to work with other agencies in the county to get them the help that they need. Sometimes it involves healing with other members of their family, and getting some family support going.”
In existence in Batavia for 25 years, ABC is a Christian organization and, moreover, a ministry that focuses on assisting women and their families with “life choices” from pregnancy to birth and beyond, Executive Director Sue Sherman said.
ABC staff and volunteers also have been involved in the process of adoption, she said, primarily working with Bethany House in Rochester.
The agency receives a small amount of funding from the United Way, but overwhelmingly is supported through donations, church sponsorships and its fundraising efforts.
Currently, Sherman and Doyon are working with volunteer Lucille DiSanto on ABC’s major fundraiser – its Fall Vendor Festival on Saturday, Oct. 23 at the City Centre Mall concourse. Nearly 80 vendors have signed up thus far to participate in the agency’s 25th anniversary celebration.
‘A CHRIST-CENTERED NO JUDGMENT ZONE’
Calling ABC “a Christ-centered no judgment zone,” Sherman said their main focus is to conduct a wide variety of parenting classes for moms, dads, grandparents and, in some cases, extended family members.
Those who take the classes – they’re held on the second floor of the facility – receive credits that enable them to receive free necessities for their babies, toddlers and young children.
Class topics include information about pregnancy, caring for newborns, post-partum symptoms, how to make out a budget, how to save and successful parenting techniques. Regular Bible study classes are offered as well.
“Usually, our program has been set up to benefit parents with children 3 and under,” explained Sherman, who has been executive director for five years. “We’ve expanded that – we’ve got older children, 4, 5, 6 years old. We can help you with clothing or items that you need.
“Additionally, we help parents that come in here with troubled teens, and that presents different issues. They don’t receive material goods, but they come to us because they need help.”
Sherman said some women are mandated to come to ABC through the Probation Department or Child Protective Services or Department of Social Services, and are required to take parenting classes.
Thus far, more than 540 classes have been conducted over the past 12 months, Doyon said.
Assistance also is provided when ABC gets a call from the hospital requesting help for women who have just given birth.
“And many times, we get involved to help mothers get their children back,” Doyon advised. “They may have a child or a couple children at age 2 or 3, and now we’re helping them to get their children back due to their mother’s addiction, for example.”
In any event and in all situations, Doyon emphasized that “whoever comes through our door, we’re going to help them.”
‘WE WANT THEM TO FEEL THE DIFFERENCE’
“We want them to feel the difference. When they come through the door … we want them to feel the Lord’s presence and we want them to feel loved and respected, and feel that compassion.”
Sherman said all races and religions are welcome.
“We’re here to help you and encourage you. We are not here to judge you. Often we hear from the girls that this is the only place they’ve heard anything encouraging in their entire lives,” she said.
She also pointed out that many clients have not graduated from high school, are in recovery from substance use or were victims of domestic violence. She indicated that about a third of their clients at any given time are homeless – or “couch hopping -- not knowing where they’re going to lay their head tomorrow.”
“And some of them are in every category,” she said.
Toward that end, Sherman said she is pleased to report that ABC just closed on a house that will be used as temporary living quarters for the homeless women being served.
“I have spoken to our donor base for years, letting them know that we need housing,” she said. “We had a donor give us a house nearby, and we just closed earlier this month. No programming is in place yet, but sometime next year, we’ll be able to have half of that house for up to three women – with their child or children.”
SPECIAL EVENTS SET FOR NEXT MONTH
DiSanto, who is coordinating the Fall Vendor Festival on Oct. 23 at the downtown mall, said it is shaping up to be a huge event.
“We now have 76 vendors -- artists, artisans, crafters, quilters, direct sales, woodworkers and more, as well as games for children and a visit from Santa Claus,” she said.
Sandy Chappius, owner of Chap’s Diner in Elba, will be catering the festival, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. The public is invited at no charge.
The agency will be hosting a free online fundraiser at 7 p.m. Oct. 28, also commemorating its 25th year.
Le Roy resident Alexandra Andrews will tell her story as an abortion survivor.
A wife and mother of three, she said her testimony centers upon the ways God revealed His plan for her life, bringing her out of an orphanage in Russia to share a message of mercy, healing and forgiveness.
A registered nurse, Andrews is an active member at her church and serves on the ABC board of directors.
Doyon and Sherman are the only full-time employees at ABC. They are assisted by a five-hour-per-week bookkeeper and about a half-dozen volunteers who organize donations, help with fundraising and provide other support.
They said they would welcome an experienced grant writer willing to provide volunteer assistance. Agency oversight is provided by a volunteer board of directors.
ABC is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday.
For more information about programming or the special fundraising events, call 344-5660, go to www.allbabiescherished.com or www.facebook.com/AllBabiesCherishedPregnancyCenter/
Photo at top: Executive Director Sue Sherman, left; Program Coordinator Mona Doyon and Fall Festival Coordinator Lucille DiSanto. Photo at bottom: Mural on a wall at the ABC office at 445 Ellicott St. Photos by Mike Pettinella.