Springfield MO – Published in The Mirror
Over 300 caring individuals gathered at the White River Conference Center in Springfield on Sept. 15 to express their support for homeless, pregnant women who choose life for their babies. Dinner for Life is the annual fundraiser in support of LifeHouse Crisis Maternity Home, a program of Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri.
Guests for the 2017 event enjoyed special visitors from the Wonders of Wildlife museum, soft jazz from the guitar of Mark Ellman, a silent auction, a “photo op” with a likeness of Pope Francis, delicious food, and an exciting live auction. The “Dessert Dash” is always an audience favorite as “dashers” run to claim the fanciest and most delicious desserts from among those donated by area restaurants and bakeries.
Bishop Edward Rice opened the special evening with remarks and prayer.
“Before I begin, I would like to thank Maura Taylor, executive director of Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri, and the entire staff for their good work they do on behalf of each one of us,” Bp. Rice said. “We have an estimated 67,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Therefore, we should have 67,000 supporters of the work of Catholic Charities Southern Missouri.”
“While so many of our parishes do have St. Vincent de Paul Societies and partner with other denominations with various food pantries, Catholic Charities is able to respond to those suffering from natural disasters, or reach out to the homeless vet, or in the case with LifeHouse, reach out with an entire future, forever changing the lives of a mother and her child,” Bp. Rice said. “I also issue a special thanks tonight to those of other denominations who support this pro-life cause. We are grateful for your support, and so we pray …
“Lord, bless the work of Catholic Charities throughout Southern Missouri.
Bless the work of LifeHouse in offering a safe haven for the unwed mother.
Bless those who volunteer and staff this program, and especially those here tonight participating in this Dinner for Life.
“We ask you to touch the hearts of those in the abortion industry. Help us to do our part to create a “culture of life” and build up your kingdom. Amen.”
Personal success story
The highlight of Dinner for Life was a short video about the LifeHouse program followed by remarks from a LifeHouse graduate, Cassie Manning. Manning’s journey took her from substance abuse and homelessness to the delivery of a healthy baby (a beautiful, red-headed boy), permanent housing, a stable job, and beginning college classes. Manning is determined to “give back,” and her new life reflects that goal: Her full-time job involves working with individuals with developmental disabilities, and her college classes are focused in order that Manning become a social worker.
Manning credits LifeHouse with turning her life around.
“At the time (I entered LifeHouse), I was lost and confused, and had been sometimes living on the streets and didn’t really know where to turn,” Manning told Dinner for Life participants. After moving into LifeHouse, Manning was surprised, saying, “I was becoming a different person, one that I had never seen before. I didn’t even know that the things I was doing were possible.”
Manning stays involved through the After Care program at LifeHouse.
“I always smile when I enter the drive outside LifeHouse because this place is a part of my heart now,” Manning said. “I just want to say thank you to everybody at Catholic Charities, and at LifeHouse—the work that you do here really changes lives. It has changed mine, and I am forever grateful and thankful. I just thank God everyday for my life, and for the people that he puts into my life.”
“I am grateful and humbled by the immense generosity of so many people,” Michele March, Director of LifeHouse told The Mirror. “We netted over $180,000! These funds are so critical. LifeHouse wouldn’t exist without the support of these compassionate donors.”
Since opening on December 27, 2013, LifeHouse has housed 83 women, and 49 babies have been born. A program of Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri, LifeHouse provides homeless, pregnant women with a safe place to call home, clothing, and nutritious meals, as well as comprehensive services to help them obtain prenatal care, an education, a job, and permanent housing. While at LifeHouse, the residents also receive counseling and take classes in parenting, relationships, money management, and other life skills. The women can stay for up to one year after delivery as they work toward self-sufficiency. The After Care Program then provides support for an additional two years to ensure long-term stability.
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