After Mother’s Day, you may have noticed baby bottle banks floating around Katy and in your church. The baby bottle banks are not baby savings accounts, but are actually raising support for the Pregnancy Help Center of West Houston through their Baby Bottle Blessing campaign.
“It is our largest fundraiser of the year,” Jeannie Z, Pregnancy Help Center of West Houston executive director said. “The best part of it though is the connection it allows us to have with so many of the churches in Katy area. It gives us a way to get who we are and what we are out there to the community.”
For 30 years, the Center has been serving the Katy community with a mission that goes above and beyond. In 1989, Katy community churches came together with a vision to support new mothers and their families and to share the love of Jesus Christ.
“We have added so much to what our original goals were,” said Jeannie Z, Pregnancy Help Center executive director. “We just thought we were going to be here to help with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, but it has gone so much further than that.”
The Center averages 25 to 40 initial visits a week, which are usually pregnant women in need of resources and support. From physical and emotional needs, to spiritual needs, the Center is dedicated to helping anyone affected by an unplanned pregnancy.
The free services they offer include peer counseling and mentoring for pregnant women, as well as including their whole support system. The Center also offers bible studies for women to participate in, and also a bible study tailored for women who have experienced an abortion or miscarriage.
“We have wonderful programs to help and support women who have had a miscarriage or abortion,” Jeannie said. “Anyone that is facing anything that has to do with pregnancy that is causing them any kind of stress – that is who we are here for.”
The Center also offers a variety of classes that range from pregnancy trimester education, and life skills programs to newborn care, and infant and toddler courses. By participating in the Center’s Earn While You Learn Program, moms and families are able to receive essential maternity and baby items they need. Participants earn points by attending classes, attending Church, reading approved books, coming to clinics, etc. and then can use those points to shop in the Center’s maternity and pregnancy closets to get the items they need. No money ever passes hands at the Center.
“We know how important education is in our society so we just try to help them through every aspect of learning they need to succeed,” Jeannie said. “We help them get their GED or attend ESL classes. We work on their life skills so they can be successful. We help them or their partner find jobs. Working with many government agencies and other charities we want to make sure their living arrangements are adequate and they have proper medical care.”
Up until this year, the Center supported families until their child turned two years old, but they are excited to now be able to support them until their child is three. The Center is also working with local universities to have their classes count as college credit hours with additional courses provided for their freshman year in college.
“We are trying to figure out what classes would be the most appropriate for our families, and which ones would help them the most,” Jeannie said.
All of the work the Center does would not be possible without all of those baby bottles though. About 40 churches from the Katy community usually participate in the Baby Bottle Blessing that is held every year starting on Mother’s Day through Father’s Day. Some churches take as many as 800 bottles or as few as 30 bottles depending on their size. The bottles are then placed somewhere for each family in the congregation to take a bottle home to start collecting.
“It is something the whole family can participate in,” Jeannie said. “Each family member can then just add extra change they might have in their pockets or purses. We also love checks and dollars but every penny is so appreciated.”
Some Katy churches choose to hold their own Baby Bottle Blessing campaigns during other times of the year, as well. Christmas and Lent are popular choices, and one church even does an “April Showers” campaign similar to a baby shower. Interested churches can contact the Center for more information and how to participate.
“We make it as easy as we can for the churches,” Jeannie said. “We offer to deliver and pick up so they don’t have to worry about having to come to the Center to get them. We bring the bottles with all of the literature and anything they would need, plus a video explaining the campaign to show the congregation.”
In addition to the Baby Bottle Blessing, the Center also holds an annual Walk for Life to support their work. The Walk for Life started in the early 90’s and changed to a 5K and a half marathon race a couple of years ago. However, after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 they weren’t able to have a walk last year and so they decided this year to go back to the walk tradition.
“This year it is back to how it all started,” Jeannie said. “It is a casual one-mile morning walk in the park with the family and then fun games, food and a time for friends to gather.”
Each year, the Walk for Life will be held the day before Mother’s Day. The 2019 Walk for Life featured fun games like tug-o-war and sack races, food trucks, face painting and Mother’s Day gifts. Save the date for the 2020 Walk for Life on May 9.
If you would like to get involved with the Center, they are always looking for volunteers and donations. Visit their website phckaty.org or their Facebook page Pregnancy Help Center of West Houston for more information.
The Center also invites the Katy community to celebrate their 30th Anniversary at their annual Celebration of Life Banquet on October 17, 2019 at Palacios Maria in Katy.
“More than anything we want the Katy community to know that we are here,” Jeannie said. “We want them to know our doors are always open and welcoming. There is never any judgement. It is purely based on the love we feel from Jesus Christ.”