A Detroit clinic births a better way for expectant mothers

The free pre- and postnatal clinic is changing young mother's lives with support from Concordia's School of Nursing

Detroit, May 14, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- When Karlita Gulledge first learned a little over a year ago that she was going to be a mom, the Detroit native wasn’t sure she was up to the task.

The 23-year-old Gulledge worried she was too young to have a child and didn’t feel she was qualified to handle such a weighty responsibility. So she made up her mind she would have an abortion. It was at the abortion clinic that she met Emmanuel, a stranger who, with words of encouragement and hope, urged her to reconsider and pointed her in the direction of help.

Help came in the form of the Luke Project 52 Clinic, a nonprofit organization that offers free pre- and postnatal care to Detroit-area mothers. The clinic was born out of the passion of pastor and pharmacist Brad Garrison, in collaboration with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Michigan District. Concordia University Ann Arbor’s School of Nursing is the only nursing school to partner with the clinic by sending budding professionals to help with the effort.  

Today, five months after bringing a baby daughter, Majesty, into the world, Gulledge says she’s confident she made the right decision by visiting the Luke Project 52 Clinic.

“I can’t imagine my life without Majesty,” Gulledge says, “and they made my decision to keep her that much easier here at Luke 52. They always make me feel genuinely loved and supported.”

Since its start in 2016, the Luke Project 52 Clinic has served hundreds of mothers and is working to change the tide of Detroit’s abysmal infant mortality rate. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Detroit’s infant mortality rate is 2.5 times higher than the national average (the same as a Third World country). Statistics also show that 61 percent of women in Michigan do not have prenatal care.

“The problem is not a lack of health care in Michigan,” Garrison says. “It’s an issue of relationship-building with women who have experienced serious issues, like domestic abuse. Our goal is to build a health care delivery system that is designed for the comfort and convenience of women in poverty, while building incentive for them to maintain appointments.”

And that’s exactly what Garrison and his wife, Sherie, a nurse with over 40 years of experience in high-risk delivery and neonatal intensive care, created. They transformed a former sanctuary in inner-city Detroit to include patient consultation rooms, an ultrasound room, and a reception area. They recruited volunteer nurses, midwives, and physicians to provide expectant mothers with needed health care on Thursday evenings twice a month. They also recruited volunteer nursing students, like CUAA undergraduates Turome Chandler (a Detroit native himself), Stephanie Husted, and Caitlyn Freshour.

“It’s incredible to see how the patients are being impacted,” Freshour says. “Even after their care is complete, they want to keep coming back.”

Next week, Concordia’s School of Nursing will send its first group of students on rotation to the Detroit clinic, where they’ll gain valuable, hands-on experience working alongside volunteer medical professionals and continue to help support the clinic’s mission.

Beyond medical care, Luke Project 52 offers wraparound services that help meet the needs of the whole person. When women keep their medical appointments, they receive a ticket that allows them to shop at Benjamin Closet, an in-clinic store that’s stocked with free baby care items not provided by federal programs. Women are also encouraged to meet with social workers on site.

Meanwhile, an activity center provides childcare, and the church offers a hot meal at the end of the day, connecting the women with the church body. The medical staff continues to see the family until the baby reaches 12 months, which provides the clinic more time to build relationships and share Christ with the women. Since the clinic’s inception, three babies have been baptized.

In its second year, the clinic has already reached its capacity. Garrison plans to expand to another static clinic site in Flint, Michigan. They also recently launched the first pre- and postnatal mobile clinic in the state—a 40-foot RV outfitted with all of the medical supplies necessary to provide services to moms in need throughout the state.

For CUAA students, like Turome Chandler, and mothers in Detroit, the clinic provides hope. “It’s made me more of an optimist,” Chandler says. “It’s confirmed my love for the community I grew up in and it’s restored my hope for humanity.”

If you’re a medical professional interested in volunteering your time or a church interested in supporting this ministry, contact Rev. Brad Garrison at bgarriso@reagan.com or 734-646-8206.

Learn more about Concordia University Ann Arbor’s School of Nursing at www.cuaa.edu/nursing.


Karlita Gulledge (right) holds her daughter, Majesty, as a volunteer at The Luke Project 52 Clinic dotes on her. CUAA nursing student a regular volunteer, Caitlyn Freshour (right), cares for a patient at the clinic.

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