In the fall of 2013, a small group of Clay County ladies began meeting, planning and praying to begin a pro-life presence in their area.
Almost two years later, Guadalupe Project opened its doors at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Flora. That day, they welcomed 12 families who were either expecting or raising young children. The ladies provided diapers, wipes, formula, clothing and other necessities.
Since then, the Guadalupe Project has served more than 80 expectant women and over 250 different families from Clay, Marion, Effingham, Richland, and Wayne counties.
Because of the rapid and tremendous growth of the project, Guadalupe Project opened a new location in downtown Flora on June 12. The building was provided by private donors who pay the monthly rent. After extensive work by volunteers, the new location offers a waiting room, an area for items to be distributed, a mother’s room for expectant mothers or mothers needing to nurse or change their baby, and a chapel that is available for the visitors. A large work room in the rear of the building provides space for volunteers to prepare items for distribution by repackaging bulk items, organizing new donations, cleaning used toys, marking through bar codes, and sorting donated clothes.
Guadalupe Project has also begun the process to incorporate with the state of Illinois as an independent non-profit organization and to obtain 501(c)3 status.
According to organizers, Guadalupe Project provides diapers, wipes, formula, clothing, bathing necessities, and other items once a month to families with young children. Expectant mothers receive care packages with information, comfort gifts, and other useful items, in addition to access to maternity clothes, prenatal vitamins, and other items as they are available. In the last year, Guadalupe Project has expanded to provide diapers and wipes to any child who needs them, regardless of age. In addition to the monthly distribution time, Guadalupe Project is available at any time via phone or social media, and has helped individuals in need between distribution dates.
Most of the items are purchased with donated funds or money raised at various fundraisers. Some items are dropped off by community members.
The project relies on the idea of “paying it forward,” says Laura Whitehead, one of the organizers. “People have generously brought in baby items they cannot use or no longer need so that they can pass their blessings on to others,” she says.
“We are very thankful for the support of the local community throughout the past two years, whether it was through supporting a fundraiser, donating various baby items, or putting up a flyer.”
According to Whitehead, Guadalupe Project’s goal is to build a culture where every life, from conception to natural death, is protected and valued, regardless of the circumstances or individual choices of any person.
“Through every activity or program offered, Guadalupe Project strives to remind every person of his or her own inherent value and creation in the image of God,” she says.
Whitehead says every person at Guadalupe Project helps the other, whether by receiving the items, donating the items, fundraising to purchase items, cleaning the items, sorting or setting up the items, or using the items.
“Providing the material need is important, but more important is the love of God shared among those people made in His image and each person’s individual response to that love,” she says. “Through this consistent reminder of the inherent value of each person will come a true and authentic respect for every human life. This is the true goal of Guadalupe Project.
Guadalupe Project is open anyone in need during pregnancy and as the child grows. What makes the project unique is that support is offered for anyone, regardless of their situation, and because the services extend well beyond pregnancy.
While many of Guadalupe Project’s services are traditionally offered at a pregnancy center, services do not end there. Guadalupe Project provides support throughout the months and years after a child is born, and is available to assist in any way possible as specific needs arise during that time.
“No one who visits Guadalupe Project has ever been required to fill out extensive paperwork, provide proof of income, or jump through one hoop or another in order to receive assistance,” Whitehead says.
Looking to the future, Guadalupe Project will continue to seek new ways to continue to promote a culture where the life of every person, from conception to natural death, is protected and valued.
For more information about Guadalupe Project, visit www.guadalupeproject.net, www.facebook.com/guadalupeproject, or contact Laura Whitehead at [email protected]