NRL News

Laredo Life Pregnancy Center re-launched thanks to Heartbeat, other pro-life groups

by | Nov 16, 2021

By Gayle Irwin

After the state of Texas implemented the new heartbeat law, SB8, in September, and even greater need for pregnancy help organizations was created. Add to that the influx of migrants from Mexico, Central, and South America, and border communities like Laredo experienced a still greater need for pregnancy help. Heartbeat International and a Texas support organization responded in partnership to assist the Laredo Life Pregnancy Center

The pregnancy center recently underwent a change in leadership, and thanks to several individuals and organizations, including Heartbeat, the center was resurrected from near ashes.

“We were only open four hours a week, serving only three to five women,” said former executive director Sandy Nava, who stepped down late last month. “We had been seeing 15 to 20 women a week.”

Becoming a fire

COVID and Nava’s personal life, impacted the hours of operation, and therefore, the center’s reach. Assistance from Heartbeat and the Pregnancy Outpost of South Texas (POST) and a new executive director were the keys needed to turn the ashes into a fire. Nava believes the new Texas law will increase the number of women coming to the center. She also believes the center will be in a better position to meet the increased need thanks to new leadership and increased resources.

“Women here don’t need to go far (for an abortion), and so we need to be here to intercept them before they make that choice,” she said, “to educate them and really love on them. I’m so happy we have a new director now, and she’s here 100 percent, and she’s putting in that time and reaching out to these women.”

While the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates the Texas law after hearing arguments from two lawsuits on November 1, Laredo Life Pregnancy Center has begun to receive help with funding thanks to the POST and resources from Heartbeat International. 

Those resources include two years of website services through Extend Web Services; a database called Next Level Center Management Solutions that collects information on clients, donors, and volunteers; and online, print, and “in-depth” training opportunities, among other resources, said Sara Littlefield, Heartbeat’s Life Launch Grant Program specialist.

“The coalition (POST) saw this need for the center to be supported so that it could thrive and knew about the Life Launch Grant program and knew Heartbeat was working with centers,” Littlefield said. “This is a really unique situation – the Laredo center has existed in that town but has been understaffed and underfunded and is in need of extra support. The town is really in need of this pregnancy center. They are serving on both sides (of the border).”

The Life Launch Grant Program is specifically designed for underserved areas or those targeted by abortion providers. The resources offered by Heartbeat are valued at $10,000, Littlefield said, with matching funds from the center that in this case, were fulfilled by POST stepping up to help.  

“We saw the benefit of considering this center for those in-kind resources in particular,” Littlefield said, “especially since they’re working with that coalition on the funding side. We were anxious to jump at that opportunity to see how we could help, and this was a good fit.”

“Laredo really needs that pregnancy help,” she said. “It’s an underserved community. They are in a season of change and growth. Life Launch was a good resource to consider for this organization.”

President of Heartbeat, Jor-El Godsey, agreed.

“We realize the need has been great and is now even greater in that particular community,” Godsey said. “Being the border town that it is, it really is a place that we can’t leave to its own. As I understand the economic conditions, it needs the help we’ve been doing in other communities, and we saw an opportunity.…”

“Those ‘in-depth’ training opportunities are invaluable,” Littlefield added. “When you have a team that’s starting up, or in this case revamping with new leadership, a new executive director, there is a need for training. That’s all included in the Life Launch Grant Program.”

Placing herself in the fire

Cynthia Garduno was born in Laredo, but later her parents decided to move to Mexico. Her father died when she was 14, and when Cynthia was a late teen, she returned to Laredo. The bi-lingual woman is the new executive director for Laredo Life Pregnancy Center.

“It’s definitely my calling to serve and help people,” said Garduno, who is trained in psychology, counseling, and social work. “I realize there’s a big gap in help for the women here in my community. I want to reach as many as I can and help them.”    

She plans to network in the community, meeting with church pastors and leaders of various organizations. 

“I want to make sure they know about us,” she said. “One of my main goals is to serve my community, be able to unite my community for the purpose of pro-life and our ministry.”

That began less than two weeks after she took the leadership role. On October 30, Laredo Life Pregnancy Center hosted a Celebrate Life event, providing buckets filled with items women can use in their homes. 

Garduno said she has several goals moving forward, including turning the resource center into a medical facility, offering pregnancy testing and ultrasounds provided by professional nurses. She knows the process will take time, but she is dedicated to the cause.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “I want to learn, and I want to learn everything with excellence. I’m willing and ready to learn! I’m willing to adapt to change, and I’m ready to work hard. I want to serve my community, the mamas and the babies.”

She recognizes the assistance from POST and Heartbeat will benefit not only herself, but the community of Laredo and its nearly 280,000 people.

“We will be able to bring in paid staff and we can invest in opportunities to be open more, 8 to 5, Monday through Friday,” Garduno said. “That will bring in a lot of people who need help. We will also be able to do more drives, like diaper drives, milk drives, whatever the need is, and reach out more to our community. It will take time, but having a good, strong foundation … will lead us to what we need to become.”

Investing in community needs

Godsey sees the investment by Heartbeat and POST into the community as critical.

“We know the need is there in Laredo and that need will only grow,” he said. “What we want is a healthy organization that has better footing to serve the community and grow as the needs grow.”

 “Even though there are 2,750 pregnancy centers across the country, there are lots of counties and lots of areas where the gap between pregnancy centers is significant, even in very dense areas of population,” Godsey said. “There are areas that are significantly under-represented.”

His keynote address at the Heartbeat conference earlier this year included the idea of the need for “more people, more places, and more pathways.” The Life Launch Grant program is a way to “see the vision” for this, filling those gaps and helping pregnancy centers launch in areas of great need, he said. The goal had been 50 new centers in five years. Now, however, “we don’t want to limit” that number, Godsey said.

“We’re on track for that (50 in five years),” he said.  “We can easily see it as 60 in six or 70 in seven, or more as we have opportunity for people to see the vision and join us as far as partnering from a donor perspective. We’re grateful we can leverage that into Laredo.”

Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.