It’s been in downtown Toronto for over two decades now, “rescuing at the gates of hell,” and on Jan. 30, it took time out from its life-saving work to pay tribute to one of the people who helped make it all happen from the beginning, as well as two more individuals who have made major contributions to its work in recent years.

The Aid to Women crisis pregnancy agency, headquartered on Gerrard Street East right next door to the “Cabbagetown Women’s Clinic,” held a dinner at Toronto’s Holy Family Parish hall that evening to salute co-founder Richmond Cochrane, now 82 but still working for the cause as an accountant for Campaign Life Coalition, and to announce the foundation of a new award of excellence in his name.

“Richmond Cochrane had a vision and wanted to do something to help people who had particular kinds of problems,” said Aid to Women president Dan di Rocco. “It floated from his convictions – his spiritual and moral convictions – that there was something unjust in the situation that society faced and these women, their partners and families faced. He wanted to do something that would help these people.”

CLC president Jim Hughes was unable to be present for the event; however, he sent a letter which was read at the dinner by di Rocco. “It has been an honour and a privilege to have worked shoulder-to-shoulder for the past few decades with this dedicated pro-life warrior,” Hughes wrote. “Dick Cochrane and a countless number of sidewalk counsellors at Aid to Women are the real heroes of the pro-life movement. It is by the grace of God and the efforts of the dedicated workers at Aid to Women that so many babies have been saved and for that, we offer our sincere gratitude.”

For his part, di Rocco said of Cochrane that, as “an accountant, he knows the value of money, but more important, he knows the value of love and what comes from the heart. That was what always inspired him with the work he was doing with the women, men and babies who were being saved.”

The inscription on a certificate noted that Cochrane has always believed “we do whatever we have to do in order to save the unborn baby and we continue to be just as concerned about helping the mother, whether it be material help, food, rent, medical attention or spiritual aid.” It was then announced that a new award of excellence was being established in his name.

After receiving a standing ovation, Cochrane said that, “My years at Aid to Women can never be forgotten – over 20 years of my life that I would gladly do all over again. In fact, it was just a labour of love.”

The first two recipients of the Richmond Cochrane Award of Excellence were George Eygenraam and Harriet Notten, “in recognition of outstanding commitment to the pro-life cause as demonstrated through humble service to women and families challenged by distressful pregnancies.”

“The work that George and Harriett have done … is to create another holy family at work,” added di Rocco. “We thank George and Harriett for being members of that holy family and making families that are holy and whole.”

Former Aid to Women director Joanne Dieleman presented a slide show of photographs from throughout the agency’s history, two readings were given from the collection of “good news” Aid to Women stories in Grace Petrasek’s book House of Miracles (available from Interim publishing) and board member Paul Tuns summed up the agency’s commitment to service when he said that the staff and volunteers of Aid to Women “have no choice but to help those who need it. Because we must love, we must serve our fellow human beings … Aid to Women. It is a house of miracles.”

On behalf of all present, di Rocco concluded with a prayer that God will “bring your healing and peace into the lives of women and men facing distress because of pregnancies … You want all human beings to have life. Protect the helpless little ones to whom you have given the gift of life.”