Guiding Star

I’ve written about the Culture of Life, and I’ve written on the need for there to be a true spectrum of choice for men and women who find themselves pregnant with no options other than abortion. If choice means anything, there needs to be more than one viable choice in the face of a pregnancy.

Guiding Star in North Philadelphia has been providing alternative choices to abortion for women since 1992. The Christian Science Monitor explained Guiding Star’s mission in 1998 as “making motherhood an option,” and that remains a great way to describe it. Temple’s College of Public Health once highlighted the fact that “volunteers are paramount” to Guiding Star.

In a culture where Planned Parenthood is seen as the only authentic voice for family planning, Guiding Star represents a radically more authentic approach for women looking for affirmation and support.

But because the single-outcome politics of Planned Parenthood often starves authentic alternatives like Guiding Star from receiving public support, places like Guiding Star have always struggled to survive. The Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia has supported Guiding Star for many years, and we’ve always endorsed their vision, which is why their board of directors decided to merge their organization into ours to ensure not only survival, but growth. From the announcement earlier this year:

Guiding Star provides housing for expectant mothers and their children, as an alternative to abortion. This program is unique in the Philadelphia region in that it welcomes both pregnant women and their children. We are proud of our decades-long partnership and grateful for this opportunity to create an even stronger continuum of care for women and families in our city.

The Pro-Life Union regularly encounters abortion-vulnerable women through our sidewalk counseling, prayer vigils, and Pregnancy Hotline. With this change, we are already working to expand Guiding Star in several key ways:

  • Increase the number of women and children served with safe housing annually
  • Create a Family Center where Guiding Star clients in the community can receive baby supplies, gently used clothing, furniture, etc
  • Expand social services for residents and clients including counseling
  • Expand programming for residents and clients including parenting workshops, job training, and mentor support.

Why does a woman need a place like Guiding Star? It turns out, often because abortion is seen as the only option. Not by the mother, but maybe by the father, who says he won’t love her if she has the child. Or maybe by her parents, who threaten to kick her out of the house if she doesn’t abort.

These are the unacknowledged realities that Guiding Star exists to answer. I was grateful to be able to visit today for their Christmas party, and to be able to think through the future of this work.

Stand Up For Life

I spent last night in Center City, Philadelphia with more than 1,000 friends to celebrate another year in working to build a Culture of Life. This was my fourth time attending the Stand Up For Life celebration, and its 34th anniversary.

The short film above was shown during dinner and does a pretty good job capturing the work of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, which hosts Stand Up For Life.

I think the most important realization of the Pro-Life Union and groups like it whose mission concerns the Culture of Life is the realization that politics alone is not the solution to the Culture of Death that plagues this country. A focus on service to others can do more to meaningfully change hearts, and ultimately change our politics.

Service to people like Kendra—who was told by Planned Parenthood that she had a choice, when in fact they were really offering her one choice; which is no choice—are an example of that approach.

Strategic planning

I’ve got a board meeting tonight for the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. We’re in the midst of the first strategic planning process in the nonprofit’s history, with the goal being to approve our Strategic Plan for 2015-19 at the next quarterly meeting.

It’s one thing for a nonprofit to have a firm sense of its social mission, but it’s an entirely different thing to have a specific plan for realizing that mission in a way that’s concrete and measurable. That’s where strategic planning comes in, which should be clarifying for the board as much as for staff and volunteers.

Because the Pro-Life Union strives to build the Culture of Life, most directly by supporting those making the choice for life, it possesses a mission that will always be relevant. There will always be people in unexpected situations who need tangible support, whether material, spiritual, financial, emotional, or some combination. Knowing that your organization needs to be resilient enough to live for a century or more, while still being agile enough to respond to a community’s changing needs, is helpful for guiding the strategic planning process. Every organization’s time horizon is different, but every organization should be proactive rather than reactive. Strategic planning is a hallmark or proactive organizations.

As we were drafting our strategic plan, a member of our Nominating, Governance, and Strategic Planning Committee also helped us think in terms of SMART goals to strike the balance between the extremes of goals that are either too general to be actionable, or too aggressive to be achievable. They’re SMART because they’re Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

I’ll write more on strategic planning in the future.