by Charles F. Bostwick
Valley Press Managing Editor
A dinner attended by more than 300 people raised some $27,000 for the Antelope Valley Pregnancy Counseling Center, which as founded nearly 30 years ago to offer women an alternative to abortion.
The center provides pregnant women and new mothers with support such as food, diapers, clothing and equipment, and also operates a medical clinic, in a storefront office that once was an abortion clinic. The center and clinic together cost about $130,000 a year to run.
“We want to be able to impact society more with the message of life,” said Executive Director Ellen Qawasmeh, who had started as one of the pregnancy center’s volunteers.
“All of our services are free, so we depend on the community to support us.”
Dignitaries at the $60-a-plate “Gift of Life” dinner, the center’s 18th annual, included state Senator George Runner, R-Lancaster; Lancaster Vice Mayor Ron Smith; California State Prison-Los Angeles County chaplain Abdul-Wahab Omeira; and the Air Force Flight Test Center’s commander, Major General David Eichhorn.
Norm Hickling, a center board member and field deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, was master of ceremonies.
The Nov. 13 dinner in the John P. Eliopulos Hellenic Center included auctions of art work, a rocking horse, and gift baskets donated by local businesses, plus a handmade quilt bearing 150 stars — one for each baby whose mother had changed her mind last year about having an abortion.
Palmdale guitarist Andrew Shore played classical and jazz music.
During the dinner, the Rev. Tom Baker of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lancaster, the Rev. Leo Dechant of Father Serra Catholic Church in Quartz Hill, the Rev. Chris Fagan of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Palmdale and Bishop Henry Hearns of Living Stone Cathedral of Worship in Littlerock circulated among the tables, collecting donations from diners.
Volunteers Therese and Joe Coriaty, who for years have organized women’s tea events, golf tournaments and other fundraisers for the center, were honored with the center’s Angel of Life award.
Another volunteer, ultrasound technician Samina Iqbal, told how she had been urged to have an abortion when she was pregnant with her fifth child, which she was told was endangering her life.
After a rough pregnancy during which she had to stay on bed rest, her daughter was born at 1.5 pounds.
Her daughter is now a healthy 6-year-old, she said.
“She is really a gift of God for me,” Iqbal said.
The Palmdale clinic, at 2270 East Palmdale Blvd., Suite K, is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, though center leaders would like it open more.
Its ultrasound device was a gift from actress Patricia Heaton, star of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
“That ultrasound has probably saved over a thousand lives in the last five years,” Qawasmeh said.
Since 1980, the center has operated an office in the 44700 block of Date Avenue in Lancaster. The Lancaster office is temporarily closed as it moves into new quarters across the street.
The relocated office is expected to be open before the end of the year, Qawasmeh said.