Making a Difference – Part 4

Planned Parenthood

When Planned Parenthood is mentioned as of late, people who don’t know about it other than from recent news coverage and political disagreements may have misconstrued perceptions of what this nonprofit stands for. Aside from what can be gleaned from pundits and cable news outlets, there is a robust list of services and facts that many people, including their own supporters and patients, may not know about Planned Parenthood.

“We are the nation’s and Pennsylvania’s primary family-planning provider, which means that we provide more family-planning services than any other medical provider does,” states Sari Stevens, executive director for Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates and Planned Parenthood Association of Pennsylvania for the past 12 years. “Our Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the national organization, is celebrating 100 years of service this year. So we are an integral part of America’s history.”

With 32 health care centers in Pennsylvania alone, over one million Pennsylvanians have been served at one of these locations in the past 10 years. The services offered include typical gynecological care, pap smears, breast exams, STD testing and treatment, birth-control education and supplies, abortion services and family planning – the biggest focus of all with many different entities under that umbrella.

With a sliding fee scale based on income, Planned Parenthood accepts all who come into its facilities, insured or not.

“Everybody deserves health care,” says Stevens. “One of the things that is particular with family planning is that it cannot wait. This is a must-see-now sort of business. Planned Parenthood’s mission is to give caring, non-judgmental care to women regardless of their ability to pay, and that is what we are here to do.”

Although Planned Parenthood provides services to women, a misconception is that it is only for women.

“I’d like to emphasize that, yes, Planned Parenthood is for women, but a good percentage of the patients are men, too,” says Howard Kolus, 77, a volunteer with Planned Parenthood for the last five years. Kolus started out volunteering in the clinic and has now moved over to the office where he assists in administrative duties.

Supporting Planned Parenthood is nothing new to Kolus. He’s been a financial supporter since the 1980s.

What compelled him to start and continue to support this organization?

“I don’t have a specific reason, but it makes me feel good to be able to help,” he says with a smile. “I felt like women were being given the short end of the stick, and if I could do something to change that, I should. So I did.”

Amidst the controversies and political conflicts, Kolus strongly believes that this organization is crucial to the community in which it serves.

“The talk about cutting back funding, people don’t know how much that would hurt the communities that are served,” he argues. “It’s a good organization. I know not everyone will agree with that, but the help that they give, the good they do, it cannot be denied. There is no way.”

For Stevens, there is no better support than that of the public.

“Thank you to the public, to our patients, and to our neighbors, even just here in Harrisburg,” she says. “Thank you to our supporters, vocal or not, that are supportive of our role in the community. Whether 15 years ago or today, we are proud to be their medical provider and honored to have them enrolled. We are excited to have their continued support as we celebrate our 100th year.”