Even after more than three decades of helping young women, those words were special to hear for Fritzie Alfermann, Director of Pregnancy Assistance Center in Washington, MO.
But “being a mother for a while” includes tough love. Her center provides many services, but much is expected from her clients. “Out goal is to teach them responsibility,” Fritzie says. “We want to help them, but not raise that child for them.”
If there’s a need, the center can provide diapers, but only a small package per week. They can supply toilet paper, but only two rolls per month. She tells them, “I can’t give you everything you want, but I can help you get started. Go out and get a job and find a way to get the rest of what you need.”
Fritzie has been helping young mothers, mothers-to-be, and fathers since her operation started in her basement in 1975. That’s when Monsignor Alphonse Westhoff recognized her interest in pro-life issues and asked her to find help for a young mother. She was able to gather a pick-up load of donations, then picked up the mother and newborn baby at the hospital and helped them get situated back in their home. “I was scared to death,” Fritzie recalls. “I wondered what that man had gotten me into!”
Since then, she has discovered tremendous need. Little by little Fritzie helped more women. Soon it was five or six, then nine or ten women a year. As awareness of her center grew, so did donations.
This year the Pregnancy Assistance Center will help close to 4,000 young women. “We’ve been very busy the past couple of months with the economy as it is,” she says. “There’s so much more need for our help in buying formula, baby food, car seats, and gasoline so the mothers can drive to their children’s doctors appointments.
The center provides a long list of services. They often provide cribs, car seats, high chairs, strollers, baby clothing and food for newborn children. They can help children up to 4 or 5 years old.
But Fritzie and her 40 volunteers also see to it that young women receive free pregnancy tests, pre-natal care, assistance with the labor and delivery, and many other services.
Whenever possible, she likes to visit the schools to speak to the students before there is a problem. Often she takes literature and other materials “to scare the Holy Hell out of them.”
She also tells them, “I don’t want to see you in my office, ever. But I’m here for you if a mistake is made.”
This year her operating budget has grown to $170,000. Except for electricity, heating and cooling, telephone, and a few other bills, all donations are channeled toward the needy babies and their families. In 37 years Fritzie has worked without pay, and all of her volunteers have followed suit.
All clients qualify at the poverty level. Fritzie wishes her center would become less busy, but knows that is unlikely.
Many area churches and local charities help support the center. Other money is provided by Matching Fund activities through local branches of Western Catholic Union. Branch 253 in Union, MO, joins with Immaculate Conception Church to hold a couple of rummage sales each year to raise money. Little did they know how badly-needed one recent $500 Matching Fund check was.
The day after a young boy was killed in a car wreck, Fritzie and her daughter Stephanie were discussing how to find money to provide a proper burial. They had no answers. As they were meeting, a member of the church delivered the WCU Matching Fund check.
Yes, miracles do happen.
It’s impossible to know how much of an impact Fritzie Alfermann has been in her community. She has an entire wall of placques and certificates of recognition, including the Cardinal Carberry Award from the St. Louis Archdiocese for her outstanding pro-life efforts.
A letter from a former client reveals the center’s impact:
“Last Christmas I was experiencing horrible difficulties. Just to refresh your memories, I was the girl with 3 little boys and had just been told that I had a form of cancer. I had also just been told I was pregnant again.
At that time I was not thinking clearly and even though I do not believe in abortion I was ready to have one. I had an appointment set up and everything.
When I called, you asked me to come in to the center. You and your daughter talked with me and showed me how big my baby was, and you gave me a little plastic baby that I carried everywhere.
Not only did I not abort my baby but you two also blessed my family with a wonderful Christmas.
So thank you soooo much.
After they took bone marrow from me I was found to have NO CANCER.
Last month I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. You guys are a huge part of the reason why she’s here today.
You all do wonderful things for many people and I want you to know how much you have blessed my life.
Thank You from the bottom of my heart.
Throughout Franklin County Fritzie’s friends call her “the closest thing you’ll ever see to Mother Theresa.” Mother Theresa once said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than a person who has nothing to eat.”
Every child, already born or not, in Franklin County is wanted, loved, and cared for. The Pregnancy Assistance Center in Washington, MO sees to it. Fritzie Alfermann sees to it.
With support from people like you.
If you’d like to donate to the center, please send checks to:
Pregnancy Assistance Center
310 International Avenue
Washington, MO 63090-3410