Following God's Lead: Pamela Palumbo's Story
In 1982, Pamela Palumbo, volunteered for what she thought was going to be a six-month stint at her church’s ministry to women at risk for abortions. Thirty-one years later, she continues as CEO of the Pregnancy Clinic, with locations in Annapolis, Bowie Crofton, and Severna Park, Md. She spoke with Outcomes about how the ministry has embraced innovation without losing its focus. A lifelong learner, Pamela became a CLA Credentialed Christian Nonprofit Leader (CCNL) in 2013.
Your clinic has been a leader in medical innovation. How did that happen?
Back in 1998, we were having a harder time reaching our target client, which is the woman who is at-risk for abortion: abortion-minded or vulnerable to abortion. Around that time the new thing that was getting a lot of publicity was ultrasound. I was at a Focus on the Family conference and ran into some individuals that were doing some groundbreaking work with sonography in medical clinics. So I brought that back and, here in the state of Maryland, we became one of the first centers — in fact, one of the first centers in the nation (there were less than 20 of us at that point in 1999) — that added medical services to our counseling and support services, with a local Christian OB/GYN who agreed to become our medical director.
What we saw was a game-changer — and has continued to be a game-changer — in the pregnancy clinic ministries across the nation. When we counsel and offer support to women who are at-risk for abortion, 30 percent change their minds and elect to carry their baby to term. But when we add ultrasound, that number more than doubles, and goes up to about 70 percent.
What challenges did you face by trying something new and untested?
We are primarily a volunteer organization so currently, with our 3 clinics, we have 10 paid staff and almost 50 volunteers; it is a little intimidating for people who thought they were just going to volunteer at a small local ministry and here, instead, it is an actual medical clinic where the things we do reflect on a physician’s license. As we’ve expanded that into HIV and STD testing, we’ve had to communicate clearly to our volunteers what that means. We’re very purposeful that everything — medically and in counseling — is 100 percent accurate.
How do you hold to core principles while adapting?
We’re very vigilant about mission-drift. Without a solid infrastructure, a ministry can really suffer from imbalance of governance and staff turnover. So we’re very purposeful that we stay focused on the mission God has called us to here. By doing that it keeps our passion fresh and gives us energy.
How do you discern when innovation is a risk worth taking?
I pray a lot. I don’t say that lightly, especially in the pro-life field; it’s a minefield. I purposely look for where God is working and where we can come alongside him.
We’ve had a lot of opportunities presented to us, and we’ve really stepped out in faith. We have a wonderful, prayerful, board. Just two years ago we were presented with the opportunity to open a third office here in Annapolis. It was not in our budget and not in our plan. We just felt at the board meeting that we needed to be open to that, and at a banquet, raised every penny we needed without telling anybody what that number was.
We’re about 150 feet from Planned Parenthood. They look down on our front yard, and there’s a big sign out there, and I’ve had women call us from the waiting room and say, “Can I come over and have an ultrasound?” And they have come over and changed their minds. It was nothing that we had planned. But God brought that opportunity to us.
Today’s post is an excerpt from the 2013 Fall edition of Outcomes Magazine.
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