Sarah was working in shipping and raising her four-year old daughter when she became pregnant at the start of the pandemic. She had to quit her job due to health issues, and not having the resources to support her new baby, she turned to Genesis of Pittsburgh.
The pro-life nonprofit offers supplies, childbirth and parenting courses, housing and emotional support for pregnant women and families in need. In the Pittsburgh region since 1983, it receives help from many groups, including Catholic parishes.
Genesis provided Sarah with clothing, shoes, diapers and a car seat, but just as importantly, a connection to a caring community.
When the pandemic hit, Genesis’ Learning Center classes went online. Instructors teach pregnant women and their partners the basics of childbirth and parenting. By attending class they can earn “baby bucks” for items like strollers and car seats.
These Zoom calls became a source of consolation and camaraderie in Sarah’s life. They gave her someone to talk to when much of the world had closed down. She knew that a friendly voice was only a phone call away.
“It’s okay to ask for help,” she said. “I’ve felt alone, I’ve felt helpless. But it gets better with time.”
She also appreciated that Genesis encouraged mothers to not lose sight of caring for themselves as they cared for their children. Genesis partners with local clothing stores for “Dress for Success” events that gave Sarah a wardrobe refresh and a confidence boost.
Genesis offers a host of services to pregnant women and families in need. In alignment with COVID protocols, up to four women who are homeless and pregnant can live at Genesis House during their pregnancy. Staff help them to secure housing for after their child is born, and to either find employment or finish their GED, said Crystal Turner, Genesis executive director.
Adoption services are available to women seeking to place their child in an adoptive family. Genesis also has a Grandfamily program that gives grandparents who are raising their grandchildren and single parents in need access to clothes and school supplies for children up to age 18.
“From the time women find out they are pregnant to the day their child graduates from high school, we are here for them,” Turner said
Nine parishes around the diocese have taken Genesis under their wing. Every October, bassinettes are placed in the vestibule at Saint Mary of the Assumption Church for people to donate new baby items.
Terri Sirianni of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish coordinates the Grandfamily program and facilitates her parish’s outreach to Genesis. Through their “Baby Bottle Bank” collections, parishioners take an empty baby bottle home to fill with monetary donations for Genesis.
Sirianni says her parish stands in staunch support of Genesis’ mission.
“Genesis offers services that help people while allowing them to maintain their dignity,” she said.
The Senior Connection group at Saints John and Paul Parish, which serves low-income seniors and area agencies, helps Genesis with groundskeeping and interior improvements. They have power washed and stained the deck at the house where the women live, sanded and repainted outdoor tables and chairs, and beautified the grounds with flowers donated from Soergel Orchards.
This fall, they will repair uneven concrete at Genesis and install blinds inside the house. Parishioners hope these improvements help women to feel at ease in their surroundings.
“We really want the women to have a sense of comfort and relief. We want them to feel like they are home,” said Carol Horvatin, Senior Connection member.
Sarah’s son was born in December and she now has two beautiful children. She wants struggling pregnant women to know that they are not alone.
“There is help. There are good people out there,” she said. “We need more organizations like this. There is hope for people who feel alone, scared, and hopeless.”
Genesis has centers in Allegheny and Washington counties. For more information about Genesis of Pittsburgh or to find out how your parish can support its mission, visit www.genesispgh.org.