Sharon Maedke, the director of the AIM Women's Center located at 248 N. Fifth St., Steubenville, knows what it's like to be in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy.
As the guest speaker at the GFWC/Ohio Wintersville Woman's Club's Feb. 21 meeting, Maedke shared with the members that her oldest daughter had become pregnant during her senior year of high school, throwing the family "off kilter."
As decisions were contemplated, the Wisconsin native said the words of their pastor were embraced, to not ask "Why me?" but to instead ponder, "Why not me?"
Sharon Maedke, center, director of the AIM Women’s Center, is presented with donations for the center by GFWC/Ohio Wintersville Woman’s Club officers Marjean Sizemore, the club’s first vice president, and Barb Thermes, president.
-- Janice R. Kiaski
"God won't give you any more than you can handle," Maedke said the reasoning went as the decision to keep the baby prevailed over adoption and ultimately brought the family to Steubenville 14 years ago.
"That baby blessed us in numerous ways," said Maedke, who explained her daughter's desire was to attend the Franciscan University of Steubenville and enroll in its nursing program. "We thought no way are they going to accept her, she has a baby, but, lo and behold, they did."
And that brought not only a change of address for her daughter but for the whole family as well as Maedke and her husband and their two other children moved to Steubenville to help raise the new family addition.
Maedke, who said she and her husband "fell in love with the area and the people," heard about the AIM ministry in downtown Steubenville and wanted to give back, so she began volunteering there.
The AIM Women's Center, founded in 1987 as the Assistance in Motherhood Pregnancy Help Center, is a nonprofit charitable organization that provides "education, opportunities for healing and support in a Christ-centered way to those who find themselves in a pregnancy-related crisis," according to its website. It strives "to empower individuals to make healthy life choices regarding their sexuality, consistent with the sanctity of human life," it notes.
When its then director retired, Maedke stepped in.
The center marked its 25th anniversary in 2012, according to Maedke.
"It was started by a man in the area who really felt that we needed in this area to offer women something else other than abortion, to step up along side of them and be able to help them so they could keep the baby and that they would have people walking alongside them to support them," she said.
AIM provides information and educational materials, assistance, pregnancy testing and other services.
"We are there to support young women in our area with the truth," Maedke said. "We are in an epidemic of STDs and not many people are talking about it, but we talk about it downtown, and we help many, many girls either through their pregnancy or hopefully when they find out they're not pregnant, to put them on a path to abstinence, because abstinence really is the only thing that they can do that is going to assure them they have their dreams intact," she said.
In 2005, AIM began offering post-abortion healing, she said, with weekend retreats held twice a year. Three years ago, the center began offering free ultrasounds.
"That has truly transformed our ministry," Maedke said.
During a question-and-answer period, Maedke said the center is funded through private donations; has a medical doctor who reads the ultrasounds; has one nurse on staff and is looking for a second nurse; always needs volunteers; and that in a year's time, logs about 1,000 cases of assistance with one client typically averaging three or four visits.
Maedke said the generosity of the area is a blessing.
"I can't believe we have a pregnancy center in Steubenville, and I can't believe we're able to do what we're able to do in Steubenville," Maedke said she often says to herself. Despite a difficult economy, people locally are very giving, including the woman's club, she said.
"I just thank you all for your generosity. I thank you for being a part of this ministry."
President Barb Thermes presided at the business meeting where Natalie Doty, second vice president, led in opening ceremonies. The meeting was attended by 44 members and four guests including Martha Alloggia, Lil Ferguson's guest, and Mary Ann Freeze of Alabama, daughter of Joyce Palmer, club treasurer.
Ella Jane Burns was recognized as the featured member in the Chatterbox, the club's newsletter.
Reports were given by CarolynLee Barrett, recording secretary; Palmer; and Linda Cipriani, corresponding secretary, who shared several thank-you notes the club had received for donations to Wintersville Good Neighbors, Boatsie's Boxes and the Tony Teramana Cancer Center.
Community service reports included:
MEMBERSHIP: Judy Anastasio, chairman, initiated Martha Alloggia into club membership as a transfer from the Steubenville Woman's Club. Anastasio then deferred to Linda Nolf, who explained that she, Anastasio and Mary Beth Allan met to work on changes in the bylaws. Copies of the suggested changes will be distributed at the April meeting for a silent vote.
ARTS: Doty reported good response from visits to Indian Creek schools for entries for the poetry and essay contests for state convention, including two third-grade entries, three fifth-grade entries and one short story from a sophomore. All of the entries are awaiting judging.
CONSERVATION: Pat Freeland shared a news item regarding her 17-year-old granddaughter, Marjean Stock, which will be taken to Rainbow's Children's Hospital in Cleveland. The club has undertaken 14 different projects dealing with recycling.
EDUCATION: Jackie Davis, chairman, reported that 317 school-related items valued at $248 were delivered from the January meeting. She encouraged members to use the Book Nook and provided a needs list from Boatsie's Boxes for gum, lip balm, hard tack and socks. These items will be sent directly to a mother, whose son is serving overseas.
INTERNATIONAL OUTREACH: Barb Whiteman, chairman, showed the arm bands for "Operation Smile," a project the club will do again this year.
PUBLIC ISSUES: Chairman Barb Grimm thanked everyone for the jelly beans that were brought to the meeting.
Marjean Sizemore, Southeast District president, noted that all reports had been sent in and that certificates will be presented March 23 at the Southeast District's Legislative Day which will be held at St. Florian Hall with the Wintersville club as host.
The club's next noon luncheon and business meeting will be held March 21 at St. Florian Hall with Steven Schumacher of the OSU Extension office in Belmont County presenting the program on "All About Gas Wells."
Freeland will offer the meditation and grace and serve along with Kathy Furda, Whiteman, Aimee Jaros, Pat Perry and Davis as hostesses.