Father Timothy Naples takes almsgiving as a “serious Gospel obligation,” and one of the projects he supports is a mobile medical unit for a pregnancy center. “If children in the womb would not be deserving of some of my financial means — through projects like this — then no one would be,” said the pastor of St. John Vianney Church in South Burlington.

He also is the state chaplain for the Vermont State Council of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s fraternal organization that supports the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.

Father Naples is working with the Knights to raise funds for an Ultrasound Initiative, a long-standing part of the Supreme Knights of Columbus pro-life office. According to its guidelines, if a council raises 100 percent of the cost of a vehicle outfitted to serve as a mobile medical unit for a pregnancy center, the Supreme Council will provide 100 percent of the funds for an ultrasound machine to be used in that vehicle.

The total cost is for the outfitted van is about $200,000; the Knights have raised $55,000.

“We are thrilled that the Knights of Columbus have raised $55,000 toward the purchase of our Medical Mobile Clinic,” said Deb Couture, executive director of Aspire Together.

The van will be a 24-foot Freightliner Sprinter 3500 with Volta power adapter to keep the ultrasound and computers functioning while the van is stationary. The interior will have a comfortable seating area, ultrasound table and lavatory. The exterior will have a custom wrap stating the agency’s free-of-charge services.

Aspire Together, established in 1985 (as Burlington Pregnancy Services then known as Care Net) exists to encourage life for those who are seeking abortion. The agency provides pregnancy testing, STD testing, ultrasounds as well as numerous social services that include ongoing well pregnancy/parenting/relationship/life skills classes and support to fully equip new families. The parenting resources extend from birth to school-age children. Another available service is abortion recovery through a 9-week Bible Study.

“In 2020 we worked with over 80 women, even during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing one- on-one support,” Couture said.

Aspire Together is working on the van conversion with Save the Storks, which is providing a $30,000 grant, and Aspire Together has raised $38,000. “Once the total amount has been raised, the conversion work will begin,” Couture said, adding that Aspire Together is working on several grants and a 5K fundraiser to fund the mobile clinic.

“It has been our dream for several years to be able to reach vulnerable women right where they are. Being able to provide pregnancy testing, STD testing and ultrasound right on the spot can be a game changer,” she said. “One of the biggest obstacles to having clients come to the center is transportation. Now we can go to them.”

She hopes that in addition the Burlington area, the mobile clinic will serve clients in St. Albans and other areas.

“Officially the next step for us is to ensure we have fundraised enough money for the contract to convert the van, which is still in negotiation,” Father Naples said. “We know we are more than half way there, but we are still fundraising.”

—Originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.