Wednesday, 21 February 2024

"Excited" for how the Lord will work through Conference, movement - "Essential" pregnancy help event convenes

The crucial work of pregnancy help goes on worldwide regardless of social challenges in the last year. If there are women and families in need, pregnancy help organizations will do what it takes to serve them.

In this spirit, Heartbeat International’s Annual Pregnancy Help Conference convened the week of Apr. 26, with both an in-person and a virtual format, to effectively reach all pregnancy help organizations desiring to take part in the event.

“It was hard to know what things would look like heading into 2021,” said Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, “but we did know the great work of pregnancy help remains essential.”

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Heartbeat International’s Annual Conference is the largest pregnancy help conference in the world, offering valuable education and networking opportunities for leaders in the pregnancy help community.

“Conference week is a time of education and inspiration, while also providing a great time to network with peers in the pregnancy help movement,” Heartbeat Vice President of Ministry Services Betty McDowell said. “We are so blessed to be together again after a long year of unknowns.”

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As the coronavirus first spread through the world last year, Heartbeat quickly revised its 2020 Annual Conference to be completely virtual, successfully making the event’s offerings available to hundreds of pregnancy help servants worldwide. 

While policies and procedures continued to evolve with public gatherings and many restrictions persist, Heartbeat determined it would offer a virtual Conference option in 2021 while resuming the in-person event, to meet the pregnancy help movement’s needs once again. 

The theme for this year’s Annual Conference reflected a term that was often used throughout this last year related to the virus fallout that also became a prevalent thought in regard to individuals who serve women and families in need  – that those in pregnancy help ministry are essential.

“Pregnancy help organizations have such a critical mission and essential services to offer, that Heartbeat chose the “Essential” theme for this year’s Annual Conference,” said Andrea Trudden, senior director for Marketing and Communications at Heartbeat.

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Heartbeat International is the largest and most expansive network of pregnancy help in the world, serving over 2,800 pregnancy help locations on every populated continent, wherever abortion alternatives are provided.

Heartbeat Vice President of Mission Advancement Cindi Boston-Bilotta echoed the vital nature of pregnancy help and the reason behind Heartbeat’s Annual Conference.

“Because this mission is so critical and each and every one of our pregnancy help servants is essential to this life-affirming calling, Heartbeat is committed to providing a training conference that both equips and encourages them,” she said. 

Attendance for the Annual Conference was on track to surpass previous years, underscoring the critical nature of the event and further confirming that pregnancy help is essential.

The in-person gathering was set to run Apr. 27-30 in Columbus, OH, and the virtual Conference for Apr. 28-30. 

Appropriate precautions were taken by the event venue and Heartbeat International to keep everyone safe in accord with virus concerns.

“Things have definitely been different in preparation for the 2021 Annual Conference,” Heartbeat International Event Specialist Molly Hoepfner said. “And while events have taken on a new look, Heartbeat is actively committed to providing the pregnancy help community an exceptional Conference with safety in mind.”

The 2021 Heartbeat International Annual Conference was geared to provide both a training opportunity and a celebration of pregnancy help.

This year Heartbeat celebrates 50 years of providing hope to both clients and those on the frontlines of the fight against abortion.

Among the reasons for this hope:

  • Option Line continues to answer calls for help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, connecting women to pregnancy help every 90 seconds.
  • The Abortion Pill Rescue® Network has saved 2,000 lives - and counting! - of babies who were in the beginning stages of medical abortion. 
  • The 2020 Reimagined Conference, despite a last-minute change to a virtual platform, reached more of the pregnancy help community than ever before.

Annual Conference sessions are offered at basic, intermediate, and advanced levels for pregnancy help organizations, which include pregnancy help centers, pregnancy help medical clinics, maternity homes, adoption agencies and abortion recovery groups.

Presentations encompass subject areas including medical, leadership, management, sexual integrity, sexual health, client culture, client programs, abortion recovery, spiritual wholeness, emotional health, addiction recovery, fundraising, marketing for donors, marketing for clients, board business, human resources, housing, and adoption.

Those in Columbus for the in-person event had a choice of a variety of workshops, roundtable discussions, product demonstrations, and inspirational keynote sessions, plus the 50th birthday celebration. 

There were also several pre-conference in-depth training options available on April 27.

Those topics included the Abortion Pill Rescue Network, understanding one’s calling in life, a housing roundtable, volunteer and staff training through The LOVE Approach, on-line marketing, leadership, fundraising, an executive roundtable, and hands-on ultrasound trainings.

For those joining the Virtual Conference, there were more than 50 workshops available, including live Q&A with presenters, allowing high-quality training from the comfort of participants’ computers at home. 

Attendees did not have to be in Columbus to join together and have fellowship.  

                                                 Reason to celebrate -
                                                  Some of the many women involved in presenting
                                                   Heartbeat's Annual Conference 

Heartbeat had incorporated a variety of networking opportunities into the Conference platform to allow all attendees—both in-person and virtual—to connect and converse about an assortment of topics.

Heartbeat International works to assist individuals who seek to serve in pregnancy help ministry in countries worldwide, and each year the Annual Conference reflects this.

“The Annual Conference provides the greatest opportunity for diverse training, broad networking and inspirational encouragement to international affiliates,” said Ellen Foell, international specialist for Heartbeat International.

A poignant part of Heartbeat’s Conference is the Parade of Nations. For many years, the international nature of Heartbeat’s work has been observed at the Conference by inviting attendees from around the world to carry their flags in a parade at the opening dinner of the event. 

“It’s an awe-inspiring experience to see just how many people around the world are united in the life-affirming work of pregnancy help,” Foell said.

With global travel restrictions this year, many affiliates who usually invest in training for their staff at the Annual Conference were not able to join in person. 

While international affiliates who could not be in Columbus this year would be greatly missed, Heartbeat still planned to celebrate them through the Parade of Nations with the flags of each country where Heartbeat affiliates serve carried by volunteers, totaling 76 countries.

Keynote speakers at the 2021 pregnancy help event included Darren Mulligan from We Are Messengers, Nicole C. Mullen, Brad Stine, Sister Dede Byrne, Bishop J. Alan Neal, Dr. Rob McKenna and Peggy Hartshorn, Heartbeat's Chairman of the Board.

The Heartbeat team worked extensively for months to prepare for the Annual Conference and looked forward to the week with great anticipation of many great blessings.

“The Lord has prepared all of us for this time,” Godsey said. “We are excited to see how He will work through this Conference and this movement!”

Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages the Abortion Pill Rescue® Network and Pregnancy Help News.

Lisa Bourne

Lisa Bourne is Managing Editor of Pregnancy Help News and Content Writer for Heartbeat International. She has worked for more than 20 years in journalism and communication for the pro-life community, the Catholic Church, other Christian denominations, and secular media. 

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