by Nafisa Kennedy, Director of Option Line
Earlier this month, Option Line celebrated their eighteenth birthday! It's exciting to think that some of the first callers to Option Line could be parents of children who may be graduating high school this year.
Just like over 18 years a child develops into a young adult, Option Line has changed a lot over the years in some amazing ways.
When I arrived at Option Line nearly fifteen years ago, we were a developing, yet still relatively small operation. We were answering calls and emails 24/7, but had just started taking on AIM Instant Messenger during 3 shifts per week. We had a paper schedule posted on the bulletin board each week. Nobody worked remotely-consultants would often come to work at 9pm in their pajamas so they could get in bed as soon as they returned home at 2:30 in the morning.
Option Line, at that point, had not yet served a quarter of a million contacts-and there was buzz around the office speculating on when we’d reach that milestone. We had only 2 major partnerships with other organizations-National Safe Haven Alliance and Florida Pregnancy Care Network. At the time, all phones would ring at one time, and we relied on team work to determine who would take the next incoming call. Except in the case of Florida calls which had a catchy Caribbean ringtone, we had no way of knowing which number had been dialed to reach us.
On my very first shift, I handled 26 calls; a number that sticks with me to this day because I thought it was incredible that I had a chance to impact so many people in a 6 hour time period.
And yet God had mighty plans for Option Line. And He continued to grow and amaze me all along the way.
I did not anticipate that we would have four channels of communication staffed 24/7/365. I did not anticipate that we would have the technology to design a ChatBot that could answer exactly as a live consultant would, or a staff scheduling application that would alleviate hours of painstaking work for the Option Line operations staff. We’ve always offered support for healing after abortion, but I never had the inkling we would be serving as triage for a process where a mother could reverse the effects of her abortion.
I never imagined that the entire Option Line staff would have the ability to handle every aspect of their work remotely-or that we would have those systems in place when a pandemic hit, which would allow us to continue serving the Pregnancy Help Movement to the highest standard even when PHC’s had to close. I certainly never imagined that we would have a consultant working from outside of the US. I couldn’t have imagined that I would have the great privilege of leading Option Line through a period of tremendous growth, during which we helped more than 400,000 contacts in a single year.
by Betty McDowell, LSW, LASVice 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!
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