by Betty McDowell, LSW, LAS
Vice President of Ministry Services, Heartbeat International
2021 is a special year for Heartbeat as we announce our 50th birthday. So many things come to mind as we reflect on the original founders’ hearts to offer continuous learning for those serving in the pregnancy help community. While we originally called each annual conference “Academy” we are sure our founders could not have imagined all that is being accomplished today whether in person, online, or in print.
In fact, the Heartbeat International Annual Conference alone, has grown far beyond what our founders could have imagined. Who would have guessed 50 years ago that we would be hosting simultaneous events in person and online in 2021 to accommodate as many attendees around the world as possible?
And that’s just once a year. Heartbeat Academy has grown so much more. Throughout the year, over 7,000 active students participate in more than 350 webinars (live and recorded), online courses, and distance-learning opportunities. Even when we aren’t live in person (though those trainings continue!) there are thousands of hours of training online for pregnancy help volunteers, staff, and leadership working to provide excellent assistance to those who feel alone and hopeless in an unexpected pregnancy.
Our founders also had vision for a Worldwide Directory Desk Reference (which you may have received recently as a Heartbeat affiliate) to make the help we offer easier to find. This resource is a collection of all existing pregnancy help services which allows for connecting those looking for help and those looking to help with alternatives to abortion. The first directory published in 1971 compiled nearly 200 entries. In 2021 the Worldwide Directory contains over 6,800 entries and contains the most complete list of pregnancy help providers in existence today. The Directory also exists online.
Another way our founders wanted to help connect women to the assistance we provide was a “call center” where women could find help 24/7. While some call centers existed before then, that dream became a nationwide reality in 2003 when Option Line was established. Since that first answered call, we have reached over 4 million men and women looking for answers in an unexpected pregnancy. This was the vision of our founders and continues to be our joy as we connect men and women looking for help to you, the pregnancy help community, now with more than our founders could have imagined using not only a 1-800 number, but text, email, a website and more.
So much has happened since our early days back in 1971. We now are the home of the Abortion Pill Rescue Network as well as the go to on-line training source for nurses and sonographers learning about ultrasound. Heartbeat also established the Life Affirming Specialist designation to encourage and recognize the efforts of those serving in the pregnancy help community. Again, we can only imagine the joy our founders would have seeing how God blessed their efforts in the past 50 years.
As you engage with Heartbeat International, you participate in a network whose vision is to advance pregnancy help worldwide. You are making a difference for life as you become equipped with the most up-to-date, sector-specific resources available. Thank you!
We have much to celebrate in 2021. Not only do we at Heartbeat celebrate our 50th birthday and the reality of the vision of our founders, but we also celebrate you. We look forward to the next 50 years as we together carry out a vision where abortion is unwanted today and unthinkable for future generations.
Thank you for working and growing with us and please know we are here to serve you, just like we have been for 50 years. There’s more to discover every day here at Heartbeat International!