Care Net of Carbon County celebrated the help the organization and God's presence provides girls and women in Carbon County to survive rape, domestic abuse, abortions and unplanned pregnancies, Friday at the ninth annual banquet, held at Blue Mountain Community Church, Palmerton.

Dr. Kenneth Varano was master of ceremonies. Lois Hollopeter, board president, welcomed everyone and the Rev. Rick Collins provided the invocation.

Hollopeter was one of the volunteers who gave testimony last year as to how the Lord helped her with problem areas of her life. This year's volunteer speaker was Debbie Balch, who gave testimony about the changes she made in her life that have given her pride, satisfaction and the desire to help other women through similar tough times in their lives.

Balch said that she was only a teenager when she became pregnant by a friend who raped her. She said that incident caused her to undergo an abortion that killed her baby and made her an angry and bitter teen, whose life spiraled out of control when she began using drugs and alcohol to numb her feelings. She said she joined a motorcycle gang and then had another abortion and a bad marriage before she found hope when she accepted the Lord into her life. She said her life is turned around. She said she and her second husband have three daughters and a good life through the Lord's help.

Also sharing testimony was a young couple about to be married. Justin Wassail and Elise Curtis said they reached the decision to wed after Wassail came to Care Net for anger management counseling. Wassail said he had many failed relationships in his life before he learned to control his anger through accepting the Lord into his life and undergoing anger management classes at Care Net.

"I used to be this big scary guy to my son," said Wassail. "Now my son tells me I'm a much nicer person."

Suzi DeMara, executive director, said that Wassail seems to be smiling all the time now, especially since Elise agreed to be his wife.

Wassail and Curtis were near the point of breaking up because of a misunderstanding, when he realized that he had to change his life or lose Elise.

Also sharing how DeMara and Care Net helped was Sherri Simmons, who said that while she wasn't raped and never had an abortion, she had many failed relationships in her life.

"Suzi makes me feel like she was waiting for me to show up," said Simmons. "She makes me feel wanted and loved."

Simmons said she is learning how to build relationships through her counseling sessions.

Also speaking was Janet LaRocco who heads a post-abortion support group for Care Net clients with Balch. Through the sessions, they help women who have had abortions learn to forgive themselves and heal from the pain and heartache they carry with them.

Last year Care Net was open 2,125 hours and scheduled 837 appointments. They saw 145 new clients and saw 35 babies born to their clients. They perform all of the services with 32 volunteers and two employees, logging 4,500 hours, with 38 clients accepting the Lord into their lives.

Care Net services are free and confidential. It provides information for pregnancy and fetal development, help for girls and women contemplating abortion and how that impacts a woman physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Care Net supports sexual integrity and provides STD information. It also provides compassionate support through peer counseling for pregnancy options, assistance for those experiencing pregnancy or pregnancy loss or post-abortion stress. It also provides pregnancy tests, baby furniture, baby clothing and supplies; and offers parenting classes, couples counseling, Bible studies and anger management classes. For additional information call (610) 379-0411