Intentionally set fire won’t stop the mission of Women’s Care Center in Peoria

Local and state fire inspectors examine the damage from an early morning fire May 3 at the Women's Care Center, 7319 N. University in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“Our doors are open. We just don’t have any doors.”

That’s how Connie McClure, director of client care at the Women’s Care Center in Peoria, assured a shocked pro-life community that the pregnancy center’s mission continues despite an early morning fire on May 3 that gutted its facility at 7319 N. University St.

Fire investigators have determined the blaze was deliberately set and initial damage estimates are $250,000.

Fire extensively damaged the Women’s Care Center in Peoria the early morning hours of May 3. Leaders of the pro-life pregnancy resource center at 7319 N. University have pledged their service to clients will continue while a new temporary location is sought. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Despite their sadness, the leadership and staff of the Women’s Care Center responded to the setback with resolve, hope, and gratitude for community support.

“The community that brought us here is embracing us and will bring us to the next best location, and hopefully we can love and serve even more clients wherever we land for good,” said Christine Dennis, who founded the Peoria center in 2013 and currently serves as vice president of its board of directors.

“We are just overwhelmed with the generosity of this community and the love and support they have expressed to the Women’s Care Center and the work we do,” added McClure. “That has really bolstered us up.”

“WE WILL BE THERE FOR THEM”

The Women’s Care Center in Peoria is an independent licensee of a pro-life organization embracing 33 such centers in 11 states. Women’s Care Centers provide free, confidential counseling, support and education for pregnant women. Free pregnancy testing and ultrasounds are offered.

Hours after the fire, which was discovered at 2:40 a.m., counselors were already on the phone contacting clients, assuring them the care and support will continue.

“It may look a little different, but we’ve made a promise we will be there to support them,” said McClure.

“Our clients are our number one priority — past, present and future,” added Dennis. While a search has begun for a temporary site to house the center, the corporate office in South Bend, Indiana, has already sent a mobile unit to assist clients from the parking lot at the University Street location.

“We’re set back, not set down,” said Dennis, who moved with her family to North Carolina in August. When she learned of the fire early Monday morning, she booked a flight and arrived in Peoria Tuesday morning.

She says she is saddened, but not “crushed.”

“I just know that good will come and there’s great hope and faith in the process of rebuilding,” she told The Catholic Post. “The beauty is seeing people step up in so many ways when things like this come.

“We take care of our women number one,” she continued, “and when we take care of them, everything else falls into place.”

The Women’s Care Center in Peoria opened — and was blessed by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC — in May of 2013 in a building next to what was then National Health Care Inc., where abortions were performed. The abortion facility closed in 2019.

“We’re very thankful for the community wrapping their arms around us as they have for the last eight years,” said Dennis.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Those wishing to assist the Women’s Care Center following the May 3 fire are encouraged first to pray.

“If called beyond prayer, we need financial assistance in rebuilding. And we have 500 women on our client roster whose babies are due in the coming months,” said Dennis, founder and vice president. “They need a lot of material assistance,” she added, noting that all the contents of the center — including diapers and other supplies — were lost in the fire.

Financial assistance can be given online here.

Questions regarding other ways to help can be addressed via email at christine@wccsupport.org, or by calling the center at (309) 689-0200.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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