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Jubilee Ministry to moms and infants shares guide to setting up a program

September 13, 2010

When All Saints Episcopal Church in Vancouver, Wash., launched its “Babies in Need” ministry in 1999 to provide layettes for needy newborns, no one envisioned how large the program would eventually become.

Today, Babies in Need provides care packages – including diapers, sweaters, bonnets, booties, wipes, blankets and a handmade quilt – to an average of 23 newborns per month, and car seats to an additional 13 families each month. And a ministry that began with three women cleaning out their attics to supply used baby gear now involves volunteers from 20 churches, 26 corporate or community groups, and hundreds of individual donors who make it possible to provide mostly new supplies.

“Babies in Need was one of the first Jubilee Ministries that I visited after I began the DJO,” said the Rev. Deacon Christine Hoebermann, of the Diocese of Olympia. “And one of the things I was particularly impressed with was that it’s definitely in response to a need identified in the community. It started from a small individual effort and just grew into a ministry that is very impactful in the community. It touches a lot of people and is embraced and supported, not only by the entire parish but by a lot of organizations in the community as well.”

“When you think about what Jubilee Ministry is all about, what’s successful – the parish involvement, the community involvement, responding to a need right in that community – this really speaks to what Jubilee should be,” she said.

It began when one of the members of the church, a social worker at Southwest Washington Medical Center, mentioned one Sunday over coffee hour about an experience she’d had the previous day. A new mother had come to her and asked to borrow a pillow case. When she asked why, the mother said it was to take the baby home in.

“She didn’t have any clothes for the baby or any diapers or anything,” said Kitty Ash, a retired RN and director of Babies in Need. “We were appalled. We asked how often this happened, and she said it happened one or two times a week.”

As it happened, the social worker went out on her lunch hour and bought the baby some pajamas, diapers and other supplies. But her conversation the next day planted a seed at All Saints.

“We said we would get together some donations, clean out our closets, find all of the things we might have saved from our own children, wash them, fluff them up and assemble the good ones into layettes for the babies,” Ash said. At first, most of the items were used, but over time, new donations far outnumbered used donations.

The ministry also began supplying car seats, but quickly determined that safety and liability considerations demanded that no used car seats could be accepted. “We found out that a used one could have microscopic damage from a previous accident, which could render it unsafe for the baby,” Ash said. “But going with brand new ones became a financial challenge because they cost anywhere from $60 to $100 apiece.”

For a time, large grants from two community foundations provided the bulk of the ministry’s income. But now, the ministry’s base of support has grown and is more diverse. “Who doesn’t want to help babies?” Ask asks. “It’s an easy thing to speak about, and a very attractive thing as far as people wanting to help.”

“It’s something that people can contribute to in a lot of different ways,” Hoebermann says. “Some give money, some fold clothes, some do inventory. It doesn’t matter what your gift is, people can contribute.”

Over time, the ministry has learned many lessons about what works and what doesn’t, and Ash is enthusiastic about sharing what they’ve learned. “We’ve prepared a packet of information on how to set up a program like this, and we’d be glad to send it to anyone who asks,” she says.

Here are some of the how-to highlights, but for more detailed information- including sample donation log forms and receipts, tips on procedures for collecting baby goods, and even sample budgets – call or email Ash. She’ll send you lots of information, and is happy to tell her own stories about grace experienced and pitfalls best avoided.

“This is how we’ve done it at Babies in Need,” Ash says. “Every program will develop different as circumstances dictate and as you follow God’s lead. We share our resources freely. You don’t need all of them in place to begin. Use the ones you need and modify them to fit your program.”

* Barrels in several locations around town make it easier for people to donate. They are especially effective at church pre-schools. Label with your name and the items needed.
*Children’s books may be donated by an Altrusa chapter. This women’s group has a literary focus.
* Libraries often have free pamphlets such as “Read to Your Baby” with tips and book lists.
*Set up “giving trees” at Christmas time with labeled ornaments.
* When you don’t have enough donations, be prepared to buy used clothing to make up the difference. Also plan on buying diapers, wipes, car seats and office supplies.

Assembling and delivering layettes:
* Six to 10 people meet once a month for 2-3 hours to assemble the layettes. A label in front of each pile with the number of items needed makes assembly fast and accurate.
* A social worker emails the current stock level each Wednesday.
* We deliver layettes, car seats and extra diaper packages every Thursday.
* We keep a record of the number of layettes and car seats delivered. This is used for newsletters, reports and grant applications.

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