January 21, 2022

Two years after fire, 1st Choice for Women hopes to reopen this summer

Linda Kile, president and director of Gabriel Project, smiles with joy as she holds the keys to the southwest side Indianapolis home recently purchased as the new site of the organization’s 1st Choice for Women pregnancy care center, which has been without headquarters since their offices were burned in a building fire in 2019. Pending rezoning the property for commercial use, she hopes the pregnancy care center will open in the summer. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Linda Kile, president and director of Gabriel Project, smiles with joy as she holds the keys to the southwest side Indianapolis home recently purchased as the new site of the organization’s 1st Choice for Women pregnancy care center, which has been without headquarters since their offices were burned in a building fire in 2019. Pending rezoning the property for commercial use, she hopes the pregnancy care center will open in the summer. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

On Nov. 30, 2019, the site of 1st Choice for Women pregnancy care center in Indianapolis looked hazy—both from smoke and uncertainty. A fire in the commercial building where it was located had just caused severe damage to its offices.

“At this point, it sounds like we’ll probably need to start from scratch,” said Linda Kile a few days after the fire. She is president and director of the center’s parent organization, Gabriel Project.

Her hunch proved to be true—the office space was declared a loss.

But she also noted that the organization’s board had already “been pondering if it’s time to move. This [fire] perhaps has opened up a possibility for us, or perhaps made a decision easier for us to make. We’re still not sure.”

Yet Kile spoke of having “a huge sense of peace and comfort” as she clutched her rosary and walked through the damaged suites.

It was a feeling that gave way to frustration after more than two years of searching for a new site.

But that sense of ease returned on Jan. 10.

“I feel excited, and I feel at peace,” said Kile as she stood outside the home Gabriel Project had just purchased on Kentucky Avenue on the city’s southwest side as 1st Choice for Women’s new headquarters.

It was a long journey between the fire and finding the home. And the journey continues as the organization pursues rezoning the property from residential to commercial use.

But Kile is confident that the new site—where the next closest pregnancy care center is miles away in Mooresville—is part of God’s plan to bring a pro-life presence to the city’s southwest side.

‘Nothing felt right’

Once it was clear that 1st Choice for Women’s offices were a loss, Kile knew where she wanted to look for new space.

“I was thinking that we have three abortion centers in Indianapolis,” she said. “Two have pregnancy centers really close to them. The one that doesn’t is located on 16th Street in Speedway. I thought we’d be close to the abortion center.”

As for what kind of space Kile was looking for, she was open.

“I had no requirements, no preconceived notions,” said the member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. “It just had to be what God told me it was going to be.”

But God seemed rather quiet on the matter.

“I can’t tell you how many times I drove on 16th Street looking for available places,” said Kile. “Most weren’t suitable and needed a lot of repair. But I really felt like that’s where we were supposed to be. I kept trying, but nothing felt right.”

Her search continued for two years. She experienced a sense of abandonment by God, saying, “I would sit and look at heaven and say, ‘God, why aren’t you talking to me? Help me out! Tell me what you want!’ ”

‘I know that this is God’s timing’

Shortly after Thanksgiving in 2021, Kile’s contractor texted her about a three-bedroom home for sale on Kentucky Avenue in Decatur Township not far from the Indianapolis International Airport. With some work, he said, the space would suit 1st Choice for Women’s services of offering free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and peer counseling.

Kile looked at the property. The more she saw, the more she liked.

There was a detached garage that, in time, would be able to serve as the resource center for Gabriel Project, where clothes and baby items for mothers in need could be sorted, stored and distributed. Since the fire, Kile’s home has served in that role.

Her place has also been home to the organization’s mobile ultrasound RV since the fire. So Kile was “very excited” that the house had a large back yard where a large garage could be built to store the RV.

The Gabriel Project board met on Dec. 21 and approved Kile’s request to make a bid on the property. By Dec. 23, their bid of $65,000 below the asking price was accepted.

“As fast as everything happened and fell into place, I know that this is God’s timing,” she said.

‘I’ve learned so much’

There is still the matter of having the property rezoned for commercial use.

But there, too, Kile feels God will provide.

After deciding in early December last year that the home would fit 1st Choice for Women’s needs, she began investigating the possibility of rezoning.

One helpful factor is that the property to the north of the home is zoned commercial, she noted.

But Kile especially sees the hand of God playing a role in the rezoning issue as much as five years ago, when she joined Decatur Township’s civic council. She even gained experience by serving on its land use committee that oversees rezoning—never with the thought that her knowledge would one day come in handy.

“I’ve learned so much about this [rezoning] process,” she said.

First, the request will be presented to the land use committee of the Decatur Township civic council. If it approves the request, it will go to the greater council for a vote.

If the council votes in support of rezoning, the request will move to the Indianapolis Board of Zoning Appeals.

“There’s a lady I know who’s worked with the downtown zoning board for 20 years,” said Kile. “She’s been helpful with giving suggestions.”

One suggestion she followed was to submit an inquiry to the city’s zoning board on their potential response to the rezoning request.

“I told them about the purpose of operating a pregnancy care center, that the services will be free, that I live in the township and I want to help the people in the township,” said Kile.

She received a promising response before the Dec. 23 Gabriel Project board meeting.

“I wouldn’t have suggested the purchase to our board if I didn’t feel confident that our rezoning request would be approved,” said Kile.

She suspects the process will be completed and a decision made in the next few months.

“My hope is that we’ll be able to open 1st choice for Women sometime in the summer,” she said.

‘I’m ecstatic, so crazy happy’

With hope and confidence in a positive outcome, “The future is going to be crazy busy,” said Kile.

A contractor will be doing the technical work. But much of the manual labor—tearing up carpeting, removing cabinets, cleaning—will be up to her “and lots and lots of volunteer help,” she said.

Still, she said her overall mood is one of excitement.

“For whatever reason, we had to go through a more than 2-year waiting period” to find 1st Choice for Women a new home after the 2019 fire, she said.

“For God to say this is the time and this is the place—I’m ecstatic, so crazy happy. I can’t wait to get in there and get started.”
 

(1st Choice for Women is in need of volunteers to ready its new home for business. Tasks include manual labor, tearing out carpets and cabinets, cleaning and more. A volunteer is also needed to create a website and promote the services and mission of Gabriel Project and 1st Choice for Women on social media. For more information or to volunteer, contact Linda Kile at 317-213-4778 or linda@goangels.org. To donate, go to cutt.ly/give4gabriel.)

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!