Gulf Pine Catholic

16 Gulf Pine Catholic • July 10, 2020 Pro-life billboards boosted by birdhouse builder’s love for babies Chuck Lewis, a parishioner of St. Mary Parish inWoolmarket, presents a check for $1,500 to representatives of the St. James Pro-Life Billboard Initiative, proceeds from the sale of birdhouses that Lewis makes and sells to raise money to support the pro-life cause. Pictured, l-r, are Lewis, St. Mary pastor Father Martin Gillespie, Deacon Al Stockert, Penny Sullivan and Karen Rhodes. Photo/Terry Dickson BY TERRY DICKSON WOOLMARKET -- Birds and babies of the world owe a debt of gratitude to Chuck Lewis. Lewis, a parishioner of St. Mary Parish in Woolmarket, has built scores of birdhouses, many of which he has given away for free. “The price that I got for it was the smile on your face, and I did that for several years,” said Lewis. However, Lewis decided he wanted to use his tal- ents to help support pro-life activities. So, he approached his pastor, Father Martin Gillespie, with the idea of selling the birdhouses and donating the proceeds to the St. James Pro-Life Billboard Initiative and Father Gillespie gave his blessing. Perhaps you’ve seen them tucked between bill- boards advertising casinos and attorney Alexander Shunnarah -- a billboard showing the Blessed Mother holding the infant Jesus with the words: “Choose Life -- PRAY PRAY PRAY. Penny Sullivan, owner of Bella Grace Gifts in Gulfport and a parishioner of St. James Parish in Gulfport, came up with the idea of placing pro-life bill- boards in strategic locations. As a result, the St. James Pro-Life Billboard Initiative was born. The birdhouses are on display in the narthex at St. Mary Church in Woolmarket. Suggested donation is $20. If you would like to donate wood or expired license plates, which are used to make roofs for the birdhous- es, call St. Mary’s at (228) 392-1999. To learn more about the St. James Pro-Life Billboard Initiative, visit the group’s Facebook page: St. James Pro-Life Billboard Initiative. “We’ve been doing this for about a year,” said Karen Rhodes, St. James Pro-Life Billboard Initiative Committee member. “We’ve been very successful. Lewis recently presented the group with a check for $1,150 “This is Mr. Lewis’s way of supporting us, and we’re really grateful,” said Rhodes. So far, eighteen (18) billboards have been erected. They are as follows: Gulfport, Biloxi, Bay St. Louis, Long Beach, Ocean Springs, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Batesville, and Natchez in Mississippi; Mobile, AL; New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and (2) in Lafayette, LA; Dallas, TX; Destin, FL; and Columbia, South Carolina. Also, banners of the image are on CTA buses along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Vector Media in New Orleans, LA, during Mardi Gras. Banners were also carried at the March For Life in D.C. in January 2020, by coast teenagers and had national TV coverage. Rhodes said the cost of a billboard is between $1,000 and $1,500 a month. Representatives of the St. James Pro-Life Initiative visited 16 churches and Rhodes said the response from parishioners was “over- whelming.” “When we first started, we were putting them up for a year because everyone in the churches where we spoke were was so gener- ous. Everyone wanted to help,” she said. “When the Coronavirus hit, the price of the billboards came down because they couldn’t rent them, so we were able to get them at a better cost. As a result, we just started putting them up, but we’re going to have to start over and we need a way to get donations to help us keep the bill- boards going. We want to get into Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. We want to put one in every state.” Presently, the group has collected over $120,000.00. “A lot of people want to help,” said Rhodes. “They want change but don’t know what to do, and this is a way for them to do something towards ending abor- tion.” So, how effective can a billboard be? “We had a lady who owns an adoption agency tell us of another lady who was headed to Mobile to get an abortion pill. She saw one of our billboards, turned around, went to the adoption agency and told the lady there that she wanted to put her baby up for adoption,” said Rhodes. “So we know it’s working. That was a like a sign to us. “We’re steadily doing stuff. We’re being active but, when the virus came, we weren’t allowed to go into the churches. We knew we couldn’t stop. We needed to keep moving, because people need to see the Blessed Mother now more than ever.”