For the past 21 years, Debbie Schirtzinger has served on Heartbeat International’s staff, working directly with our life-saving affiliates as our network has grown from 250 to over 2,100. This month, Debbie is stepping away from her current role with Heartbeat as she and her husband, Dave, relocate near family out of state.
We love and appreciate Debbie and are so thankful God has placed her in our lives, and we wanted to make sure to include YOU—our partners in this life-saving work—in a celebration both of how God has used Debbie and how we know He will continue to use her in her new home.
How did you become connected with Heartbeat in the first place?
In 1995, a good friend of mine from church, Catherine Wood, had just started working for Heartbeat. I had helped her with a couple projects by doing some data entry. I wasn’t familiar with Heartbeat but the Lord used Catherine’s passion for Heartbeat’s mission, my trust in her, my computer background, and Heartbeat’s need to nudge me. I started working for Heartbeat in January, 1996.
What’s kept you here this long?
I think I’ve stayed here for pretty much the same reasons that I came. First, I’ve always felt the Lord continuing to nudge me to stay, gracious enough to continue to use me here. Now I know firsthand His favor to Heartbeat’s mission. I’ve seen the amazing people He has brought in and out of Heartbeat in the last 21 years for specific times and specific purposes coming as a result of prayer and divine appointments. Relationships and Christian friendships I’ve made as a Heartbeat team member as well as the hundreds of affiliates I’ve met and served in affiliate services has been life changing. I’ve even met some remarkable people just hired in the last few weeks that I wouldn’t have known if I’d left sooner.
What are some of the ways you’ve seen our community/movement grow and change during your time with Heartbeat?
One year Heartbeat’s annual conference theme was Better Together. That’s been true on so many levels. At the local level, it’s seeing staff and volunteers work in harmony together in their own pregnancy center, clinic, or maternity home. It’s seeing local pregnancy help organizations working in partnership with churches and individuals in a community-wide effort. Nationally, I’ve seen groups collaborate to accomplish so much together like collectively writing the Commitment of Care and Competence standards or the pro-life legal community coming alongside national groups to defend pregnancy help organizations under attack. There is also a strong willingness and desire to share with each other things we’ve learned. Through the Heartbeat Academy, Institute, and our annual conference, the community/movement continues to grow together by sharing with each other and encouraging each other.
What are some of the qualities of pregnancy help leaders that have stood out to you over the years?
Leaders may appear in a variety of capacities. It may be an executive director leading a center, a board member who takes charge of an event, a volunteer who leads an abortion recovery program, a house parent at a maternity home, or someone leading a church group to open a brand new U.S. center or a center internationally. Their desire to serve the Lord wherever and however He wants to use them and to keep learning is the heart of those who love and lead this movement.
What do most pro-lifers/Christians not know about pregnancy centers you wish they did?
I would hope they know that there’s no agenda other than a genuine love for the clients and the desire to help them and give them hope.
How has working at Heartbeat/in the pregnancy help movement affected the way you approach everyday life as a friend/wife/mom/grandma?
I’ve seen over and over in a variety of experiences, whether praying for direction for Heartbeat, co-workers praying for each other, or praying daily over the many prayer requests that come in from donors and affiliates, how much the Lord loves us. He’s very personal. When we seek His will for our life, He lovingly, patiently provides all that we need. Seeing so many answers to prayer in the pregnancy help community has grown my faith and made me more courageous.
What do you think you’ll miss most about working day-to-day for Heartbeat?
Heartbeat and the pro-life community is such a powerful community to “live” in. I’ll miss the camaraderie with Heartbeat staff and all of the affiliates I’ve met over the years. I’ll miss keeping up with affiliate news with generous donor stories, client success stories, and seeing the impact in a community when services or locations are added. I am grateful there’s Pregnancy Help News and other outlets to continue reading these incredible stories.
What are you looking forward to most about this next season in your life?
I am looking forward to a slower pace. My husband and I are moving from Columbus, where we’ve both lived our entire lives, to a rural setting and I see myself on the back porch reading and easing myself into the day. I want to be part of a community of believers in a local church, and there’s also a local Heartbeat affiliate where I can become plugged right back into the pro-life community. I do have a longtime friend rooted in our new community and we’ll also be living within 15 minutes of our daughter and her family. I’m looking forward to being more involved with them and our 4 year-old granddaughter. I’m already signed up to volunteer in her preschool twice a month, so we’ll see if the wish for a slower pace really happens.
How can Heartbeat affiliates be praying for you?
Thank you so much! Please pray that the Lord can continue to use us wherever He leads, whether that’s in our own family or in a larger sphere of influence. I have so much more to learn and to give. Please pray not only for our daughter and family, but also our son and his family as they move to South Africa, the same week we move, for two years on the mission field. I can’t thank the Lord enough for the gift He gave me 21 years ago to be part of this incredible community of love and life.
Joining the team in June of 2017, Hannah Ellis serves in dual roles as Heartbeat International’s executive assistant and international program specialist. Prior to her work with Heartbeat, she served as a Policy Analyst/Writer and the National Field Director at Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.
Hannah has appeared on television, radio and podcasts, and her writing has appeared in American Thinker, Breitbart, CNSNews.com and The Christian Post, as well as other national and international pro-life sites.
A graduate of Cedarville University with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies, she specialized in Bible, editing and publishing, and Spanish. Hannah’s heart for cross-cultural Christian ministry has led her to serve in Zimbabwe and Mexico.
Hannah’s desire to reach vulnerable people with the hope of the Gospel has also led her to answer phones for Dawson McAllister’s The Hope Line, which answers over 50,000 calls from troubled teens each year.
Hannah’s favorite titles, however, are Christ-follower and wife to her best friend.
You’ve heard the news that Jor-El Godsey was named Heartbeat International’s president in early January, becoming just the second president in our 45-year history, following current Board Chairman Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D.
While Jor-El is certainly a familiar face among pregnancy help and other pro-life leaders—it’s hard not to be when you’ve been committed to the same work for nearly 30 years—there may be a handful of things you don’t know about our new President.
On a scale of novice to expert, where do you rank on your “Jor-El” trivia? Check out the following fast facts and find out!
How did you do?
Don’t miss out on your next best chance to expand your collection of Jor-El data points at our upcoming Annual Conference, March 29-31, 2016 in Atlanta. In addition to schmoozing with Heartbeat International’s new president—which is a value in and of itself!—you’ll be privy to 90 distinct learning opportunities that include keynotes from 40 Days for Life's Shawn Carney and long-time pregnancy help leaders Pat Layton, Rev. John Ensor and Pastor Andy Merritt.
Now that you've seen the fun side of Jor-El, you might want to see exactly what his hopes are as he steps up to the President's role here at Heartbeat International. See what he has to say himself!
Heartbeat International is the first network of pro-life pregnancy resource centers in the U.S. and the largest and most expansive in the world. Since 1971, Heartbeat has supported, strengthened and started pregnancy help organizations, including pregnancy medical clinics, pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies all over the world. Currently, Heartbeat serves over 2,500 affiliate locations on all six inhabited continents to provide alternatives to abortion.
We are a nonprofit, interdenominational Christian association of faith-based pregnancy resource centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, and nonprofit adoption agencies endorsed by Christian leaders nationwide.
...is to make abortion unwanted today and unthinkable for future generations.
...is to Reach and Rescue as many lives as possible, around the world, through an effective network of life-affirming pregnancy help, to Renew communities for LIFE.
To achieve our mission, we do the following:
We REACH those who are abortion-vulnerable through Option Line's® 24-hour call center and cutting-edge website, www.OptionLine.org.
"Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me..." - Psalm 144:7
We RESCUE those who are reached through our life-support network of pregnancy centers providing true reproductive health care, ministry, education, and social services where lives are saved and changed.
"Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; protect me from men of violence. " - Psalm 140:1
We RENEW broken cities around the world, by developing pregnancy centers where abortion clinics are the only alternative for abortion-vulnerable women.
"He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor... They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." - Isaiah 61:1-4
Heartbeat's staff is led by Jor-El Godsey, our second president, preceded only by current Board Chair Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D. Jor-El previously served as Vice President under Peggy from 2006 to 2015.
Board Chairman - Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D.
President - Jor-El Godsey LAS
Vice President - Cindi Boston LAS
General Counsel - Danielle White, Esq.
Executive Assistant - Melissa Olenik
The Ministry Services department envisions, encourages, and equips Christian leaders in pregnancy center related ministries to effectively impact their communities for life.
Senior Director of Ministry Services - Betty McDowell, LSW, LAS
Associate Director of Ministry Services - Christa Brown, BSN, RN
Associate Director of Academy - Dawn Lunsford
Grant Program Specialist - Sara Littlefield
U.S. Affiliation Coordinator - Bethany Jasper
Conference & Events Coordinator - Molly Hoepfner, LAS
International Program Specialist - Ellen Foell, Esq.
Medical Specialist - Susan Dammann, RN, LAS
Housing Specialist - Mary Peterson
Advancement Specialist - Kirk Walden
Office Assistant - Christine Flowers
APR Office Assistant - Michelle Gruber
The Ministry Support Department focuses the efforts of operations and development to support the ministry mission and vision of Heartbeat International to Reach, Rescue and Renew Communities for Life.
Director of Operations and Controller - Tony Gruber
Bookkeeper - Robin Mitchell
Human Resources Specialist - Betsy Wetherby
The Ministry Solutions department provides networking, software, and web solutions to pregnancy help organizations looking for high-tech ways to Reach, Rescue and Renew Communities for Life.
Senior Director of Ministry Solutions - Bri Laycock
Director of OptionLine - Nafisa Shamsher
Coordinator, Extend Web Services - Christy Poloni
Designer/Developer, Extend Web Services - Timothy Stephens
Sales and Customer Service Specialist, Extend Web Services - Jennifer Breymaier
Sales and Customer Service Specialist, Next Level CMS - Margie Mayes
The Mission Advancement department promotes Heartbeat International to Christian communities and educates the general public on what they can do to help make abortion unthinkable worldwide.
Director of Development - Anita Kremm
Senior Development Officer - Phil Petrella
Development Officer - Kathy Chellis
Grant Writer - Terri Fox
Development Officer - Terri Barnhart
Development Officer - Rebecca Joines
Development Officer - Julie Courtney
Development Officer - Virginia Cline
Director of Communications & Marketing - Andrea Trudden
Web/Media Specialist - Lauren Bell
Editor/Writer - Jennifer Minor
Managing Editor of PregnancyHelpNews.com - Katie Franklin
We are at your service. If you need anything, please contact us.
Heartbeat International is governed by a Board of Directors representing all areas of the U.S., and various professions and ministries. Click here to learn more.
Heartbeat also has a Medical Advisory Council with experts to consult on medical issues. Our work with sister organizations around the globe leverages life-affirming expertise from all over the world.
In addition, Heartbeat has independent consultants who provide training and consultation to affiliates around the world.
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