Grand Strand citizens celebrate saving lives

MYRTLE BEACH — Gail Ferrell will always remember Sept. 19, 2005.

That was the day she received a phone call from a man who asked her, “Does the date Dec. 19, 1973, mean anything to you?”

Immediately, Ferrell said she knew the caller was the son she had given up for adoption more than 30 years before. That day was his birthday.

Ferrell and her son, David Martin, were reunited soon after and now both live in Myrtle Beach. They told their story to people who attended the annual meeting of the Grand Strand Citizens for Life recently.

Their story, Ferrell said, is a testimony to what can happen  when a woman facing a crisis pregnancy chooses life.

Ferrell, a native of eastern North Carolina, became pregnant while still in her teens and made the decision to put her son up for adoption. She spent years wondering how he was doing, and later learned that a family in Charleston had adopted him.

Both mother and son told the 50 attendees at the Aug. 9 meeting that their story is a prime example of why abortion is never the right choice, and why the work of organizations like GSCL is so important.

“This has been an amazing experience — much more than I ever could have hoped for,” Martin said. “In my 20s, I was indifferent to the issue of abortion, and that’s because the abortion industry has done a good job of shielding the rest of the culture from what abortion really does to people. I was born eleven months after Roe v. Wade. I’m a survivor of Roe v. Wade. We have to get this message out, because it gets sold to people that a crisis pregnancy is a hopeless situation,” he said.

Grand Strand Citizens for Life, which was founded in 1984, is an interdenominational group dedicated to promoting the sanctity of life in the growing communities of Horry and Georgetown counties.

Ferrell and Martin’s story left many in the audience in tears.  They were followed by other powerful presentations from representatives of Birthright of Georgetown and Bethany Christian Center, who partner with GSCL to address crisis pregnancies along the Grand Strand.

Len Vercelotti, a parishioner at Precious Blood of Christ Church on Pawleys Island, described how he started  the Georgetown Birthright office in 2002 with his wife and other volunteers. The office is located at the St. Cyprian Outreach Center on Front Street and provides a variety of services to girls and women with crisis pregnancies. He said mothers receive counseling, prenatal care and financial help before their babies are born, and often come back for help with supplies such as diapers and baby clothes.

Vercelotti said Birthright has helped mothers ranging in age from 16 to 35, and has received calls for help from within a 100-mile radius of Georgetown. Most of the women who contact the office come from Horry and Georgetown counties. He said they fielded 737 phone calls for help in 2007 and received 589 visits from women in need.

Vercelotti said volunteers at Birthright see women who simply don’t know how to handle an unplanned pregnancy and who are “abortion-minded.” Of women contemplating abortion in 2007, he said, 29 made a definite decision to continue the pregnancy after visiting Birthright.

“That’s what a little help can do,” he said. “Looking at our records overall, we’ve determined we’ve helped 300 babies directly, and 99 of those babies were saved from abortion. That shows why the need for this ministry is so obvious. It’s a grassroots activity, one little center, and what it does is so important and so fundamental,” Vercelotti said.

Angela Ziulec, from Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in North Myrtle Beach, described her experiences volunteering as a foster parent for Bethany. She has cared for babies for two weeks up to six months. Her current foster child came to her after his mother called Bethany and said she was having problems coping with the demands of caring for a newborn.

“Bethany is a great partner in the fight to save babies, ready and willing at a moment’s notice to respond to women in need at every level, from crisis pregnancies to women who are being abused,” Ziulec said. “God’s presence has been shown to me through these babies.”

Presenters at the meeting also discussed the ways GSCL is working to spread the pro-life message along the Grand Strand.

Tom Herron, a GSCL board member, said the organization plans to continue running a series of positive pro-life ads that started in 2006. The ads feature real-life stories of individuals and families who chose life, although the names of the people have been changed. They have appeared in Grand Strand area newspapers, and audio versions have aired on four radio stations.

John Kost, president of GSCL, described his experience representing the pro-life side at a debate held during a “Celebration of Inquiry” event at Coastal Carolina University in February.

According to Kost, he appeared opposite a philosophy professor who presented the pro-choice argument. He was pleased at the reaction of the more than 120 students who attended the event.

“I had a lot of reports from kids who said they had learned a lot about the pro-life movement that day,” he said.

One of GSCL’s biggest goals, he said, is to actively spread the pro-life message among young people along the Grand Strand.

Kost said GSCL hosted other events during the past year, including a sold-out showing of the pro-life film “Bella” at a Myrtle Beach theater.  He said GSCL is always looking for new members and volunteers, and especially needs people willing to fill vacancies on the group’s board of directors.

GSCL plans to have booths at upcoming events, including the Surfside Beach Italian Festival Sept. 6-7 and the Loris Bog-Off on Oct. 18. The group will also host the annual Grand Strand Life Chain on Oct. 5 and a fund-raising golf tournament on Dec. 6 at Burning Ridge Golf Course.

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