Dear Friends of Project Defending Life, Just after midnight on Nov. 23rd, 2016, an arsonist broke into our building at 625 San Mateo and set three fires that destroyed our Holy Innocents Chapel and rendered the rest of the building unusable from smoke and water damage. As I waited in the cold parking lot behind the building, I wondered how quickly we could get back on our feet and resume helping unfortunate and abortion-vulnerable women.
Over the next week, other fires were set at The Carlisle (an apartme building in Nob Hill), Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, and Old Navy. The arsonist, David Hickman, was captured, arraigned and charged with the string of fires. He has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing on five charges. The federal prosecutor has asked PDL and the other victims to write a statement of loss that will be considered in formulating Hickman’s sentence, which could range from 5-20 years for each charge. Please pray for this benighted young man; he, too, is a victim of his own disordered thinking. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, our friends at Care Net offered us office space to gather our thoughts and start planning our recovery, and they also graciously accepted all clients referred by the Sidewalk Advocates. Thankfully, we had insurance on our contents, but that was just the beginning of this year-long journey. Fr. Young at Queen of Heaven offered us their conference room any time we needed it for staff meetings and planning sessions. A restoration company inventoried and packed up all our possessions and put them in storage. Within a couple of weeks, Mike and Maria from Doughty Enterprises offered us donated office space to continue our mission as a pregnancy resource center. We bought a couple of pieces of furniture and called all our clients to let them know our new location – we were back in business. Or so we thought. It is amazing how closely tied to our location, just next to Planned Parenthood, we were. Although we tried to get the word out to everyone, we gradually lost volunteers, clients and donors. We kept thinking we would go back to our original location soon, soon – but we could not come to reasonable terms with our landlord and eventually terminated the lease in April. Now we had to start searching for a new location and opinions varied widely on what was “suitable” for us. Some wanted us next to an abortion mill, some wanted us closer to other support organizations. We worked with a very patient commercial real estate agent and looked at multiple properties, but none quite matched the “vision” we had for rebuilding Project Defending Life and our pregnancy resource center, Women’s Pregnancy Options. During the summer, and by the grace of God, a small building just north of Planned Parenthood became vacant. We signed a lease and started the process of occupying the building in September. Fr. Daniel Williamson, CFR, is working to make modifications to the building that will become our new administrative office. Although half the size of the former location, 729 San Mateo allows us to install a small chapel, with a nice reception area, two client advocacy rooms, an admin office, and even an ADA-compliant restroom! We hope to occupy the new building by January, offering Mass on a regular basis at the new Holy Innocents Chapel and providing services that will allow pregnant women to save themselves and their babies. The blessings of the year have come in the generosity of people. As mentioned, Mike and Maria Doughty have provided much-needed office space at no cost to us for this year. Dan and Laura Rosecrans organized a wonderful fundraising dinner, as did Mary and Jay Benze at Prince of Peace. The Knights of Columbus at several parishes have been deeply committed to our restoration, offering both financial and material support. Donors new and old have sent us their treasure, large and small. We continue to benefit from your prayers. And two members of our staff delivered healthy babies this year: Robin Moses delighted us with her second child, Abigail Kateri, in March, and our director of client services, Dominique Davis, was blessed with Reverie Soleil in September. In this season of Thanksgiving, the board of directors, the staff of Project Defending Life, and I are so grateful for your support. We have been lead into the valley of darkness, but He is leading us back into the light. Thank you for journeying with us. Kathleen Welker Executive Director Project Defending Life