Volunteers met Monday at All Saints Episcopal Church to assemble layettes for Babies in Need, as they do every month. They wrapped tiny clothes in ribbon and placed them into handmade bags to drop off at local hospitals. Since 1999, Babies in Need has distributed about 4,900 layettes and 2,500 car seats to needy families.
“Most of us are all grandmas and we ‘ooh and ah’ over all this stuff,” said volunteer Judy Walter, 77, as she tied a bow.
The women have seen each other through surgeries, the birth of grandchildren, the death of husbands and all of the other joys and sorrows of life. They joined hands in a circle to pray.
“Thank you, Lord, for this time today. Thank you for all the people that contribute to Babies in Need — clothing and money for car seats and prayer and just lots of love in so many ways,” said Kitty Ash, executive director of Babies in Need. “Thank you for the hands that are here today, helping to put things together and get them ready for the babies.”
She prayed for the families receiving layettes from Babies in Need. They may be struggling with addiction, with housing or just scratching by.
“Be with them each step of the way as they go,” Ash said. “Guide them and send them the people they need at various times in their lives.”
Ash, 74, who attends All Saints in Hazel Dell, started Babies in Need in 1999 after a hospital social worker talked at church about a new mother asking for help. The mom had no baby clothes and asked for a pillowcase to carry her baby home from the hospital.
Word of mouth
Babies in Need was informal at first. Volunteers met in Ash’s basement, where they spread out stuff over tables and couches. Back then, most of the things they gathered were gently used, passed down from families whose children had outgrown their newborn clothes. Eventually, Babies in Need became a freestanding ministry at All Saints and now has an annual budget of about $19,000.
It got off the ground through grants and then grew primarily by word of mouth. A church member would tell their Kiwanis group and then Kiwanis members would tell their friends in another group and so on. Mona Pocha said she can’t count how many churches or groups are now involved in some way. The 58-year-old is the associate director of Babies in Need.
In 2011, Babies in Need got its own building on All Saints’ campus. First United Methodist Church, Meyer Memorial Trust and Vancouver Rotary Foundation teamed up to fund and build a 20-by-30-foot building. Friends of the Carpenter constructed sliding shelves for the clear bins that neatly store donations.
“It was just what we needed and what a blessing,” Ash said.
While much has changed in the 20 years Babies in Need has been around, the need remains the same.
“The babies just keep coming!” Pocha said with a laugh.
Babies in Need gives around 30 layettes to Legacy Salmon Creek, PeaceHealth Southwest and PeaceHealth St. John medical centers each month. Social workers identify families who could use the extra help.
“There will always be people that need help in our world, you know, and I don’t think it has a whole lot to do with the economy or anything else,” Ash said.
Veronica Mo, medical social worker at PeaceHealth Southwest, said many of the patients who receive layettes are on state insurance or are otherwise low-income.
“They’re really struggling to get the right resources,” Mo said.
Nurses may pick up on other needs and relay them to Mo, but the layettes provide a good start. Each layette contains basic necessities for newborn babies such as clothes, handmade quilt, burping bibs and shampoo. Pocha said she buys items from various Facebook groups. Consignment shops Once Upon a Child and Denim & Frills both donate clothes that don’t sell. The layettes also include information about social services and caring for a new baby, along with a prayer book.
Ash said the group once gave a layette to a homeless woman who gave birth in a tent under state Highway 500 on a 35-degree December day.
“It’s just so sad to think there are families with these kinds of problems,” Ash said.
Another woman who received a layette a few years after Babies in Need started said she would support the group when she was able. A few months later, the new mother sent a check for $5 and continued to send $5 checks every month. A few years ago she increased her monthly donation to $10.
“That just really touches my heart because she was in a terrible situation with a husband who had just committed suicide,” Ash said. “She just needed to know that she wasn’t alone.”
Babies in Need
Since Babies in Need started in 1999, it has distributed:
• 4,912 layettes.
• 2,550 car seats.
• 848 sibling bags.
Want to donate newborn items?
• Preemie clothes.
• Receiving blankets.
• Newborn and preemie fleece sleeping sacks and gowns.
• Baby board books.
• Burp cloths.
• Coloring books and crayons.
• Colorful tote bags.
• Newborn clothes.
• Play yards.
• Small toys and stuffed animals.
Drop off items at these locations:
• All Saints Episcopal Church, 2206 N.W. 99th St., Vancouver.
• St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 426 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.
• The Church of the Good Shepherd, 805 S.E. Ellsworth Road, Vancouver.
• St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1428 22nd Ave., Longview.
Want to give money?
• Mail checks to Babies in Need, P.O. Box 65825, Vancouver, WA 98665.
• Donate online at www.babiesinneed.org.
Want to volunteer?