Loving Care Pregnancy Center helps young moms in the community succeed
EULESS — Being a teenager is difficult. Homework, keeping up the grades, and making good decisions all while balancing emotions is taxing for most. Add a baby to the mix and the stress load doubles, along with the fear, anxiety, and loneliness that comes with living life as a grown-up while friends are out doing “normal” teenage activities.
Luckily, teen moms at Trinity High School in Euless are getting help with those issues while making friends with others in the same situation. Loving Care Pregnancy Center, a pro-life apostolate of the Diocese of Fort Worth, provides pregnancy resources and parenting information to teens at the HEB-area school, giving practical assistance and weekly mentoring.
Joan Hilleren, the program’s director, said about 45 percent of pregnancies in the HEB area occur in teens. Loving Care, which was formed seven years ago, connects them with much-needed resources and gives more than just diapers and wipes; volunteers give things to help the young moms succeed, such as new laptops and printers when they go to college.
The program meant so much to one student, she chose a college major that will allow her to help others.
Katelyn, 23, will graduate in May from the University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She had her baby, Keyanna, in eighth grade at age 14. Her daughter turned 10 in March. Katelyn is now married and on the path to a fruitful career, but she credits the help of Loving Care for the start of her success.
She partnered with Loving Care during her junior year at Trinity High School.
“They really dedicated their lives to everyone who comes,” Katelyn said of the volunteers. “They provided [us] with diapers, wipes… my baby was older, so they provided me with toys and gift cards. I was even connected to a person who donated a car to me.”
Katelyn said she is “just super thankful to Loving Care for all they have provided. They even covered costs after high school and helped with college textbooks.”
Another teen mom who partnered with Loving Care, Kennedy had her daughter Mellari at age 17. Mellari will be three on Feb. 1. Kennedy graduated from Trinity High School in 2018 and plans on pursuing a career in medical research.
Kennedy said she values all the things she learned while in the program, which she was connected to through the school’s crisis counselor Peggy McIntyre.
“They provided me with a lot of information: helped with parenting tips, how to care for a newborn baby, and helped me to become secure within myself,” she said. “We had lunch every week and they gave a lot of tips about eating healthy and ideas for the baby.... They even helped me get a car.”
Kennedy said the program helped connect her to other girls going through the same thing. She keeps in contact with many of them.
Hilleren said the program has helped about 120 students so far. Being involved with the students is a perfect fit for Hilleren, a Good Shepherd parishioner who is a nutritionist with a teaching background.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were able to hold sessions on campus. But after the school closed in March, they switched to the parking lot.
In October the group was blessed by a family that donated clothes, toys, cribs, and car seats — four truckloads.
“We had Christmas in October; they filled up their bags,” Hilleren said.
Kristy Linehan said after their youngest child outgrew her car seats, baby gear, toys, and clothes, they wanted them to bless more families.
“We donated to various organizations, but Joan and the young parents she helps were and are always so appreciative and grateful that we continued to donate to her amazing charity,” Linehan said. “We feel so blessed to have met Joan and love seeing some of the photos she shares with us of the young families receiving the donations.”
Linehan said her family learned of Loving Care Pregnancy Center through the Catholic Respect Life ministry at Good Shepherd Parish.
“I had joined the CRL because I am passionate about helping protect the lives of the unborn and vulnerable, whether it be through prayer, church ministries, donating to charitable organizations, or sharing information on social media,” she said.
Terri Schauf, diocesan director of Respect Life, said one of the greatest parts of Loving Care is that it directly serves young mothers at the school.
“Joan and all the volunteers are giving them hands-on experience and teaching them that they are beloved daughters of God,” Schauf said. “Here is a program that is walking them through a positive way of life and lifting them up. They are front-line pro-life workers. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s very sacrificial. They go directly in ... walk them through, set a good example, and show God’s mercy.”