By Sarah Whitman
Senior Staff Writer
This made her the perfect candidate for the executive director position at the Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Pregnancy Center.
“She had all the qualities we were looking for in an executive director,” said the center’s co-founder Charlie Reese. “She has great business experience and the passion needed to run a pro-life ministry.”
The Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Pregnancy Center opened in August 2009 at 1528 Land O’ Lakes Blvd. The nonprofit offers free pregnancy testing, counseling and educational services to women of all ages. Up until now, the center ran entirely on the effort of volunteers and a 10-member board of directors.
Stooks is the first paid employee.
“I want to promote the center so that everyone in the area knows we are here,” Stooks said. “My background is in management and marketing, so I can use those skills to help the center grow. I want women to know if they have questions or are in need, we are here for them.”
Stooks is a graduate of Seton Hall University in New Jersey. She was formerly the program director for the Girl Scout Council in New York City and has worked as a training consultant for multiple businesses. More recently, she was a stay-at-home mom to her children, ages 5 to 13.
The job opening with the pregnancy center came just after her youngest entered kindergarten.
“Since all my kids are in school now, when I heard about this position, I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to help women in the community,” Stooks said. “It’s not about starting up a career, it’s about saving lives. It’s a labor of love.”
Stooks said working at the center isn’t just about counseling young girls.
“We have women come in who already have children and are struggling financially, or women who are single and unsure what to do if they are pregnant,” Stooks said. “Unplanned pregnancies can happen to all ages.”
At the center, abortion is not treated as an option.
“When a woman comes in and finds out she is pregnant, we let her know she can get through it without having to choose abortion,” Stooks said. “We offer a support system. We have volunteers who are nurses, social workers and adoptive mothers working with clients.”
If clients ask about adoption, Stooks provides them with the necessary information.
“There are so many women out there who can’t have children and want to adopt,” Stooks said. “If clients choose adoption we work with them and help them prepare mentally.”
If a client chooses to keep her baby, volunteers counsel the client from day one to delivery and provide assistance after the baby is born.
“Moms can watch videos to learn about parenting and we have a store where they can shop for baby items,” Stooks said. “If a client watches a video, or reads material we give them, they can earn points to shop in the store.”
Stooks, who attends St. Timothy’s Church in Lutz, said working at the center is about giving moms a chance to choose life instead of abortion.
“I believe it is all in God’s hands,” she said. “God has a life planned for every baby that is created. I let clients know you can be young or single and still be a great parent.”
Kathy DeSanto, a registered OB nurse, is on the board of directors at the center. She admires Stooks’ commitment to the job.
“Ana is enthusiastic about saving lives,” DeSanto said. “That is what the center is all about. It is our mission. Ana helps motivate the team and make our mission a reality.”
Stooks said her family supports her work 100 percent.
“They’ve been at the center helping, folding baby clothes in the store and organizing pamphlets,” she said. “It’s a family affair.”
The Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Pregnancy Center is funded entirely by private donations and is not affiliated with any particular church.
For information, call (813) 948-PREG