Monica (Gardner) Flynn ’88 gets the text messages daily: photos and videos of a smiling and thriving four-month-old baby.
She eagerly awaits them every day, but not because she is the proud aunt or grandma. The baby belongs to one of the women supported by AND, the program Flynn founded in 2014 to support single mothers in the Columbus, Ohio, area.
“The pro-life community says to have the baby, but then what?” Flynn says. “We are the ‘then what.’ I really care for these women who choose life, because the life of a single mother is hard. They are showing courage and bravery, and I felt like we needed to do more to support them.”
The nonprofit’s name refers to both mother and child, as well as the services that AND provides beyond the prenatal care typically offered at pregnancy resource centers.
“Many people choose to abort because of financial reasons and lack of support,” Flynn says. “We strive to remove barriers to empower pregnant single mothers in crisis. We offer financial resources and support for them so they can choose life.”
AND provides group emotional and spiritual support, long-term goal planning for both career and education, financial assistance, and therapy.
One of the mothers in the group completed nursing school after having her baby, but couldn’t afford to pay for the licensing exam, so AND paid the fee. The organization also has partnerships with reputable landlords and car dealerships, to help the woman find stable housing and vehicles to get to work and school.
The mother who sends Flynn the photos and videos struggled with whether she should have her child, and her family and the baby’s father encouraged her to have an abortion. But Flynn said the mother kept reaching out to AND, and the community support enabled her to not only have her baby, but also graduate from college and find a steady job.
The group support component of AND’s programming takes the format of what Flynn calls enrichment gatherings. Twice a month, the single moms and volunteers of the program gather for a home-cooked meal, prayer, and reflection, with childcare provided for the new mothers.
“They take turns sharing their stories and it really opens them up. They get to know each other and it removes the sense of feeling alone and isolated, because now they know someone else who is going through what they’ve gone through,” Flynn says.
The gatherings also feature guest speakers from the local community, including other single parents, church pastors, and local agencies that support domestic violence victims.
“We bring them into a community of loving, Christian women, and we love them. We would love them if they aborted the baby tomorrow, but this love makes a difference and really transforms them and helps them choose life,” says Flynn, who comes from a Notre Dame family. Both her husband and one of her five children are graduates, along with four of her six siblings and several of her nieces and nephews.
Flynn was a mechanical engineering major and a member of Air Force ROTC when she was a student at Notre Dame, and spent many years working as an engineer at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
She had always wanted to learn sign language, inspired by her own mother, who was a physical therapist for deaf and blind patients. When she moved to Ohio after leaving the Air Force, she went back to school to learn sign language and became a designated sign language interpreter for a deaf case manager at Franklin County Children Services. At the same time, she was volunteering as a crisis hotline counselor for Pregnancy Decision Health Center, a pro-life pregnancy resource center. She says the intersection of those two experiences inspired her to form AND.
“During the day, while interpreting for the case manager, I was seeing all this trauma—children removed from their homes, and teenagers and young adults getting kicked out of their homes if they got pregnant. At night, I was talking to these women facing unexpected pregnancies and hearing stories about situations where they couldn’t imagine choosing life,” Flynn says. “I became very bothered that we are not doing enough for these women to help them choose life. It began my passion for pro-life work. Motherhood is the greatest gift, and once I had my own little ones running around, I just wanted to give back.”
To learn more about how AND offers assistance to single mothers in need, please visit its website.