Image of God Crisis Pregnancy Center marks one year in Madison Heights location

Beth Hool, director of the Image of God Crisis Pregnancy Center in Madison Heights, stand before materials the center uses to educate and empower expecting mothers. Hool said it is her job to encourage expecting mothers and make them feel safe so they will preserve the baby’s life. (Photos by Janet Sugameli Biondo)

MADISON HEIGHTS— Each time Beth Hool hears the phone ring and doesn’t recognize the number, she starts to pray.

As director and counselor at the Image of God Crisis Pregnancy Center in Madison Heights, Hool springs into action, asking God for the words to counsel the women on the line who may be contemplating an abortion and have nowhere to turn.

“I know at this point it is a battle for the soul,” Hool said, adding she often cries with the women as she listens to their stories. After counseling them, she invites them to have an ultrasound.

“You’ve got to empower them and give them a feeling to trust the operation,” Hool said.

All four Image of God Pregnancy Centers aim to support and guide women who usually feel helpless and are often being encouraged by others to have an abortion. 

Hool’s job is to encourage them and make them feel safe so they will preserve the baby’s life – it’s a call she may receive any time of day or night.

“They are looking for an anchor and they often find that in the counselor,” added Joe Monte, Director of Image of God Crisis Pregnancy Centers, also known as Imago Dei CPC.

The Madison Heights center, which celebrated its one-year anniversary, is the only Image of God center outside Detroit. The first center opened seven years ago by Deacon Joe Iskra at St. Augustine-St. Monica Parish in Detroit and was later joined by adding centers at Holy Redeemer and St. Charles Lwanga parishes.

The centers offer women medical, educational, counseling and material help.

But as the only free-standing Image of God facility, the Madison Heights clinic is often confused with an abortion center. Women usually call, after seeing the sign on John R Road or catching an online advertisement, thinking they are scheduling an abortion. 

Monte said this strategy increases the chance to reach abortion-minded women and to convert them.

“You have to market it as an unplanned pregnancy center so you get that phone call,” he said.

And, after the conversation is stable, the expectant mother is invited to come in and see her baby on an ultrasound, which is key to helping her connect to her child.

Beth Hool with Joe Monte, Director of all four Image of God Crisis Pregnancy Centers, with the new 3-D color ultrasound machine an exam table donated by the Knights of Columbus in St. Lawrence Parish in Utica. 

“The 3-D color ultrasound is the primary way of demonstrating to the mother that they have conceived a baby, and they should have that baby, and we give them the support to do that,” Monte said.

Last fall, the Madison Heights clinic received a donation of the 3-D color ultrasound machine and an exam table from the St. Lawrence chapter of the Knights of Columbus in Utica. The other centers have 2-D ultrasound machines.

The ultrasound machines draw a steady stream of mothers to the centers.

Last year, the four centers assisted 160 women. Since the first center opened seven years ago, more than 660 women have been able to keep their children through the Image of God centers, Monte said.

The centers are entirely donor-funded, with the help of volunteers, except for a professional ultrasound tech who get a nominal fee for her service.

The centers offer a variety of services, including medical help for women such as pregnancy tests, some sexually transmitted infection testing, and ultrasounds. The women also receive one-on-one counseling and parenting classes. 

The parenting classes focus on parent planning, pregnancy knowledge, development of children, delivery and labor videos, baby care, first aid and general instructions for caring for an infant.

Pat Shields runs the classroom program in Madison Heights, saying the women coming into the centers are not just from one demographic area or are urban or suburban.

“There are women in all parts of the city that contemplate abortion,” Shields said.

Shields added the women she meets feel alone and often don’t have someone to instruct them on caring for their body and the needs of their baby.

Shields’ classroom programs involve expectant mothers take part in a rewards system to earn “baby bucks” to use at the Baby Boutique where they can “buy” essentials, including diapers, baby clothing, strollers and cribs.

The boutique is an important part of the program as many mothers are financially strapped.

“The first thought most of the time is ‘How am I going to get a crib’ and we help them get that crib,” Hool said.

Cynthia Ostrowski (right) of Berkley and Lorraine Moses of Troy volunteer every Saturday at the Crisis Pregnancy center helping mothers find the needs for their unborn and newborn children.

Baby Boutique volunteer Cynthia Ostrowski said she enjoys spending her Saturdays at the Madison Heights center. It something she has done at Image of God Centers for many years. 

Saturdays are the busiest days with the most appointments.

“It’s very rewarding to know that you are getting clothes for a baby who was almost killed,” Ostrowski said.

Used items for the boutique are usually donated by individuals, but the operating expenses are mostly based on financial donations gathered through local churches during the “Baby Bottle Campaign.”

Parishioners fill empty baby bottles with cash, coins and checks to help keep Image of God centers open. Parish giving trees also help with new items such as diapers and other material needs. 

Recently, some funds were raised during a 100 hours Fast for Life.

Volunteer Lorraine Moses joins Ostrowski each week. Moses has been involved in the Right to Life movement since the 1970s, but working at the crisis pregnancy center and interacting with the women who need help has a special place in her heart for her. 

“I just love it,” Moses said. “I could stay all day and sort baby clothes.”

For more information about Image of God Crisis Pregnancy Center's "Baby Bottle Campaign," call (313) 805-5308.