After nearly 30 years with the Modesto Pregnancy Center, the last eight as chief executive officer, Delores Wolterstorff is retiring as of Jan. 1.
"I told the board in July, so they could be selective and not make a hasty decision (on a new CEO)," she said.
The board hasn't found a replacement for an executive to oversee the nonprofit Christian agency that offers pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and other resources to people in crisis pregnancies. The center has an annual budget of about $320,000 with nine paid staff members, including the CEO, who works about 30 hours a week and earns $35,000 to $40,000, Wolterstorff said.
In 2011, the center served 974 clients who arrived for pregnancy tests, sonograms, sexually transmitted disease tests or other services.
One of Wolterstorff's final tasks will be to oversee the annual fund-raising banquet, which this year features Pam Tebow, mother of NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Wolterstorff said she is hoping for the agency's first banquet sellout; the venue at CrossPoint Community Church can seat about 450 people.
The center opened its doors on McHenry Avenue in the fall of 1990. It doubled its space in 1996 and opened a sister pregnancy center in Sonora in 2000.
Under Wolterstorff's leadership, the center saw an expansion of ultrasounds and the launching of a men's ministry, including a post-abortion Bible study for men. Hours were added to go from four to five days a week. The community education program in public and private schools has grown to 5,500 students during the past school year. In 2011, the agency purchased space at 2801 Coffee Road, Suite A-5, expanding from 2,700 square feet to 4,000 square feet.
Wolterstorff, 71, said the center's growth has been the most encouraging part of her tenure. "Just seeing God at work in the volunteers, in the staff, the donor relationships that I've developed, that's been a real joyful time," she said. "Seeing the community education blossom. The men's ministry is beginning to grow. We now have three male peer counselors.
"I always dreamed that ministry would take off, but it didn't go that way, until now that I'm ready to retire. We have men who don't know what it means to be a father, a protector, a husband, because of our broken society."
The most challenging part, she said, should have been finances, especially during the downturn in the economy. However, she said, "we've seen some who had to reduce their support or drop off entirely, but the next thing I know, someone else is coming in to support us.
"The biggest challenge is managing the budget. When I first came on staff, we were down to three months of operation (money). Now we're up to a six-month cushion. We've not had to cut back on staff, but I got rid of the credit cards and cell phones, and I think that helped. We've had to cut some corners, but mainly I have to say that God has been faithful and God's people are faithful."
Wolterstorff said the new CEO will not have to belong to a particular church or denomination, but should have beliefs in line with the agency's ministry.
"It has to be one who has a passion for life. They can't be wishy-washy on that," she said. "They have to definitely believe that life begins at conception and that all life is a gift from God."
Other qualities include: "Someone who has a good work ethic. Someone who can handle finances and manage people well. A good listener. In a position like this, you have staff that you deal with, you have volunteers. I've always maintained an open-door policy; my door is open and I don't have all the answers.
"I think it should be someone who is a prayer warrior. We're in warfare. Satan is not happy with those who support life. We are the champions for life, and I believe that's my calling."
She knows the next volunteer will have to be more tech savvy than she is. "I'd like to see more who are undecided about their pregnancies, who are abortion-minded, to find us. That means more texting, more Internet advertising, more social media."
Wolterstorff said there is much more to be accomplished. Her dreams for the future include an expanded community education program and hiring a men's ministry director.
"I'd like to see us eventually be in all the Modesto high schools and junior highs," she said. "I'd like to see us get into all the outlying communities, but that means more volunteers. And we need to help the men. We have a man who drives all the way from Mariposa every week to talk with his post-abortion counselor. How many more men are sitting in churches suffering in silence, wondering why they're having problems with their wife now, why they have addictions. Those are both symptoms of post-traumatic abortion. This is a serious issue."
As is the whole question of abortion, which has become more divisive over the past couple of decades. For Wolterstorff, the issue is clear. "It all boils down to this: What is the unborn? Can we kill it?"
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2012.
IF YOU GO ...
WHAT: Annual fund-raising banquet for Modesto Pregnancy Center
WHO: Pam Tebow, mother of NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, will speak
WHEN: 6:30 p.m.on Nov. 8
WHERE: CrossPoint Community Church, 12th and Needham streets, Modesto
TICKETS: $35, from (209) 526-1734