Attendance at annual fundraising banquet tops 500, surprises organizers

ST. GEORGE – Over 500 people attended Hope Pregnancy Care Center’s 10th Annual Banquet held at the Dixie Center Saturday and themed “Be a Life Preserver.”

This year’s theme was taken from Genesis 45:5b, “God did send me before you to preserve life.” These words were spoken by Joseph in the Bible to his brothers who had sold him into slavery.

(l-r)Pastor Ray and Kathi, Schroeder, Sonja and Bob Blanke attended the banquet, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News.
(l-r)Pastor Ray and Kathi, Schroeder, Sonja and Bob Blanke attended the banquet, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News.

“You are here to be a life preserver,” Jessica Blevins, center director, said to her audience.

This was the largest attendance for a Hope banquet since its inception in 2005.

Hope Pregnancy Care Center, being a nonprofit organization which provides all of its services free of charge, depends on donations made at the banquet each year and generous monthly supporters to keep it’s doors open.

More the 60 items were donated for a silent auction held at the banquet, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News.
More the 60 items were donated for a silent auction held at the banquet, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News.

The center is also supported by The Hope Chest Thrift Store, which provides 51 percent of Hope’s funding, Blevins said.

Organizers are hoping to become debt free in the near future.

“We purchased a former urology clinic and turned it into something beautiful,” Blevins said.

Hope founder, Merry Jo Cook opened the doors of the center to help girls and women who found themselves in an unplanned pregnancy. Since it has opened, Hope’s services have expanded far beyond pregnancy tests and compassionate counseling and education.

Hope founder Merry Jo Cook (left) visits with a guest at the banquet, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by, Rhonda Tommer, St. George News.
Hope founder Merry Jo Cook (left) visits with Sally Crites at the banquet, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by, Rhonda Tommer, St. George News.

Blevins pointed out that one in three to one in four women over forty years of age have experienced abortion.

Hope provides counseling for women who have had an abortion and may be struggling with the experience, she said. She encouraged anyone interested to call the center. A Post Abortion Counseling and Education, or P.A.C.E. group is now forming.

Hope Pregnancy Care Center is a “soft place to land” for those women who may be struggling with such an experience, Blevins said, adding that there is also support for men.

Keynote speaker, Jeffrey Dean also shared some statistics on abortion, noting that since Roe V. Wade passed in 1973, there have been 54 million abortions.

Guests enjoyed dinner catered by the Dixie Center, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News
Guests enjoyed dinner catered by the Dixie Center, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News

There are 1.2 million abortions performed in America every year. There are approximately 3,200 abortions every day, and that averages out to about one abortion every 26 seconds, Dean said.

Dean, who is considered to be an authority on teens and teen culture, spent part of the week prior to the banquet visiting Washington County schools and talking with students.

Dean is no stranger to Hope or to Washington County schools.

In early 2013, a high school in the area tragically lost two students to suicide within a short amount of time. Dean visited the school to comfort the grieving staff and students, Blevins said

“The young ladies who find themselves walking through the doors of the Hope Center, I’m sure that they may never express it in such words, but they are just screaming for attention, for significance,” Dean said.

“We’ve seen that this week in the schools. We unite because we desire a better world for our children … our future leaders.”

500 attended Hope's 10th annual banquet, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News.
500 attended Hope’s 10th annual banquet, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News.

Dean shared a list of topics he discussed with teens this week, either in the schools or online through his website. They ranged from trouble in the home to sex, love and dating, to cutting.

The Mayo Clinic defines cutting as, “self-injury, also called self-harm,  the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It’s typically not meant as a suicide attempt. Rather, self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration.”

Other topics the teens discussed with Dean concerned the use of drugs and alcohol, and suicide, he said.

Some statistics Dean shared included:

  • Approximately 11 percent of our young generation from ages 12 to 30 years old have an eating disorder
  • Approximately 3,500 teens have experienced the divorce of their parents in the last month
  • Approximately 8,000 teens wake up each day with a sexually transmitted disease that surfaced within the 24 hours prior.
  • 38 percent of eighth graders have experimented with drugs
  • Every 30 minutes 29 percent of young people attempt suicide and 18 percent succeed
  • Approximately 57 percent of kids run away from home every day

Dean closed his comments with two thoughts:

  • Everyone influences someone. There is someone watching our leads. What does our influence look like to others?
  • Everyone needs someone. We all feel special when we feel needed.

“Supporting Hope is saying that I trust Hope’s continuing impact in the community,” Dean said. He asked how they might become a life preserver by being in partnership with Hope Pregnancy Care Center as a financial supporter or a volunteer.

Hope's director presented keynote speaker, Jeffrey Dean with the Merry Jo Cook Award, St. George, Utah, February 28, 2015 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News.
Hope’s director presented keynote speaker, Jeffrey Dean with the Merry Jo Cook Award, St. George, Utah, February 28, 2015 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News.

He then encouraged his listeners to help Hope pay off their debt of $125,000 on their new center so they can reach their goal to become debt-free.

“This is not just about a meal and a check,” Dean said. It’s about partnering with Hope to become a daily life preserver in this community.

Dean was awarded the “Merry Jo Cook Award,” which is named after Hope’s founder and awarded each year to a person who is outstanding in their efforts to make a difference. Dean was recognized for his 22 years of dedication towards helping and encouraging teens.

Resources

  • Hope Pregnancy Care Center, 391 E. 500 S., St. George
  • Business Line: 435-656-5331 | Client Line: 435-652-8343

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Email: rtommer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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3 Comments

  • fun bag March 2, 2015 at 12:32 am

    They should of all shared a cab to this event. To save gas.

    • Mike March 2, 2015 at 8:11 am

      *this advertisement brought to you by Juvenile Comments Taxi Service.

      • GROANATTACK March 2, 2015 at 11:31 pm

        This comment brought to you by the idiot comment taxi driver himself mike the mad cabber

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