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Published: Saturday, 9/3/2011

Pregnancy support center opens new location

Agency moves out of downtown to be closer to clientele

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Volunteer Lynette Francis tours the new Heartbeat of Toledo office on West Sylvania Avenue. The agency had been located downtown since 1971, but now is directly across from Westfield Franklin Park. Volunteer Lynette Francis tours the new Heartbeat of Toledo office on West Sylvania Avenue. The agency had been located downtown since 1971, but now is directly across from Westfield Franklin Park.
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Heartbeat of Toledo, a pregnancy support center, is marking its 40th anniversary this year with a number of notable changes.

One of the most visible is the center’s move from its longtime headquarters on Madison Avenue — the first time since Heartbeat was founded in May, 1971, that its offices are not downtown.

It opened its doors in June in a West Toledo office complex directly across from Westfield Franklin Park mall, at 4041 West Sylvania Ave., Suite LL4, and held an open house there on Tuesday.

The new office has sufficient space for Heartbeat to hold parenting classes for small groups and to carry baby supplies that women can earn by participating in classes.

The agency opened a medical clinic next door called Your First Look (yourfirstlook.org), offering free ultrasounds, lab-quality pregnancy tests, nurse consultations, and other services.

The decision to move was sparked by a consultation with a group from Leadership Toledo, which told Heartbeat that the people that it was trying to reach generally do not live or travel downtown, said Pat Todak, who has been Heartbeat’s executive director since 2009.

“Girls considering abortion are generally Caucasian, 18 to 24 years old, with a year of college. A lot of them are University of Toledo students,” Ms. Todak said. “So we wanted to be close to UT and close to the mall, where you find tons of students.”

The move allows Heartbeat to be open on weekday evenings, an option that wasn’t available at its downtown location because the building was locked at 5 p.m.

Clients now can book appointments on Thursday evening, and the center is offering classes at night such as “Heart to Heart,” which teaches the importance of quitting smoking, how to potty-train their children, and ways to ensure child safety, among other topics, as well as meetings of “Hope & Healing,” a post-abortion support group.

“The evening appointments are filled,” Ms. Todak said, “and we’re seeing girls come in from a lot of different areas that we didn’t see before.”

Heartbeat is offering a Healthy Relationships class for boys and girls age 12 to 15, focusing on self-respect and relationships. A new six-week class begins Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

In March, Heartbeat celebrated its 40th anniversary with a banquet featuring actress Jennifer O’Neill, star of Summer of ‘42 and Rio Lobo and a CoverGirl Cosmetics spokesman, as keynote speaker.

Heartbeat was founded by Dr. John Hillabrand, a Toledo obstetrician and gynecologist, and Lore Maier, a Holocaust survivor.

The center is not affiliated with any religious group or institution, but its counselors sometimes will ask clients about their faith, Ms. Todak said.

“Here at Heartbeat of Toledo we will talk about faith but we do not evangelize or promote any religion,” she said. “We are here to support these girls who are facing a very difficult decision, and we want them to make an informed, thoughtful decision before they go to the abortion clinic.”

Ms. Todak said women dealing with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies face intense pressure from partners, spouses, family, and friends, and Heartbeat aims to provide a “sanctuary where they can get away from where everyone is telling them what to do.”

Heartbeat has five part-time employees and operates on an annual budget of around $250,000, providing help to about 1,000 people a year, Ms. Todak said.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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