A support program for women with unplanned pregnancies that started in October is already looking to expand from Falmouth to as far north as Lewiston.

The woman who started the support group for women facing unplanned pregnancies said her goal “is to enlist a few other parishes in the Greater Portland area … so we can offer our services at one of four (Catholic) parishes every week so women know they have a resource to go to.” Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

Walking with Moms in Need, based at Holy Martyrs Church at 266 Foreside Road, offers emotional support and guidance to pregnant women through monthly meetings at the Catholic church, where women can talk to one of the group’s “mom coaches.” It also will help those who are interested with career counseling, parenting classes and information on social workers and lawyers.

The group has provided services to two women so far, and its three volunteers are eager to help more.

Volunteer Laura McKee experienced an unplanned pregnancy and made the choice to have and keep the baby. At the time she was in a domestic violence situation and had to flee the state. Now, almost six years later, McKee said she wants to help others because she knows what it’s like to face a difficult choice.

“I’m there as a volunteer to offer guidance and be there to listen to what other women are going through. If they’re looking for support, in whatever way, that’s what I’m there for,” said McKee, who lives in the Portland area. “I had an unplanned pregnancy while going through severe abuse – emotional and mental – and being stalked, and for me to come out on this side of it, then they can, too, and I can be there to support them in whatever they need.”

Holy Martyrs’ Communications Director Kim Palli, who started the group, said expanding the program would allow meetings to be held in the area every week, said Holy Martyrs’ Communications Director Kim Palli.

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“My goal is to enlist a few other parishes in the Greater Portland area, as far north as Lewiston and Brunswick and further south towards Old Orchard Beach, so we can offer our services at one of four (Catholic) parishes every week so women know they have a resource to go to.” Palli said. ”

Walking with Moms in Need is a nationwide initiative started by the United States Conference of Bishops in March 2020. Palli started the local program because she wanted to offer something more proactive than prayer alone to help women struggling with unexpected pregnancies, she said.

The mothers-to-be who are looking for help don’t necessarily have to decide to keep their babies. Another volunteer is a woman who chose to give her child up for adoption, and the group offers women information from Adoption Solutions of Maine.

Walking with Moms in Need meets from 4-7 p.m. on the last Monday of each month at Holy Martyrs Church in Falmouth. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

However, the group is only for women who carry their babies to term. Those seeking medical advice or information about abortion should consult a “qualified, trusted medical provider about their options,” according to Amy Cookson of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Palli said the group is hoping to expand first to All Saints Parish in Brunswick. Father Phil Tracy, the new pastor at All Saints, said he hopes to continue conversations with Palli so his parish can be an asset to women in the area. There is no target date for when a support group may be offered in Brunswick.

Palli said the support group would not be opposed to partnering with other religious denominations. Volunteers have begun a “robust email campaign” to reach out to other local churches, schools and health centers.

While the group has offered services to only two women so far, Palli said one was facing an unexpected second pregnancy and wanted to stop receiving assistance from the state before she gave birth. This inspired volunteers to not only offer emotional support but also provide career advice and resources.

Walking with Moms in Need meets on the last Monday of each month from 4 to 7 p.m. at Holy Martyrs Church. Their next meeting is March 28. Those who want to speak with a volunteer confidentially, or who have questions, can reach out to Palli at [email protected] or 207-847-6885.

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