Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pantry needs help providing for food babies

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

There's just one shelf that's bare at the Helping Hands food bank in Belton.
'The baby food,' said Mike Bergman, ministry director. 'We never have enough.'
And that has a direct effect on Bundles of Joy - the sub-program of Helping Hands that caters to pregnant women and new babies.
'Every new mom gets a bag full of goodies when the baby is born,' said Jeannette Kelley of Temple, the Bundles volunteer manager. 'It's got all the basics a baby would need - except food.'
For the month of June, the food bank had five cans of powdered formula and 10 jars of mashed baby food in stock.
'That's on reserve,' Mrs. Kelley said. 'We save it for emergency need. We'd like to be able to provide food for all of the new moms in Bundles of Joy.'
Bundles of Joy has helped about 800 women since launching four years ago.
To register for the program, women must be clients of Helping Hands - and to be in Helping Hands, you must demonstrate financial need and live in the Belton school district.
'There's an interview you go through,' said Kim Pointer, assistant director. 'It's like a character profile where we try to find out what your precise needs are and how we can help.'
And once a client of Helping Hands, women who are at least six months pregnant are automatically admitted into Bundles of Joy.
'We do ask the moms to register,' Ms. Pointer said. 'It's just a worksheet that gets added to their Helping Hands file. It helps us keep track of how many babies to expect.'
But forecasting the number of new babies at any given time is no easy task.
'So I keep 12 Bundles of Joy bags ready just in case,' Mrs. Kelley said. 'That way they're there, ready and done.'
When a baby is born, the new mom takes her baby to the food bank and picks up her goodies.
Each Bundles of Joy bag contains four bottles, a package of baby wipes, a few toys, six bibs, diaper rash cream, baby body wash, six pairs of sleepers, six onesies, a pacifier, a receiving blanket, a pillow, quilt and six day outfits.
The pillow, quilt and the bag are handmade by seamstresses Grace McDonald and Alma McElwain. They're both retired, and they say that sewing is what they're good at, so they're happy to help.
'The outfits are seasonal, depending on the time the baby is born,' Mrs. Kelley said. 'Warm clothes for winter, light clothes for summer, something orange at Halloween, and something with Santa at Christmas. That kind of thing.'
The hygiene items are all new, but the clothes are second hand. Sizes range from pre-mature and newborn to about nine months.
'They're in good shape. We don't give anything away that's tattered or worn through,' Mrs. Kelley said. 'And I take every outfit home and wash it. There's no way I'm going to give something to somebody and not have it clean.'
Bundles of Joy moms also have the option of asking for other supplies like breast pumps, bassinets, baby bathtubs, car seats, cribs and crib sheets.
'And if we have it in stock, it's theirs,' Mrs. Kelley said.
Sandra Rodriguez came to pick up her goody bag on June 1. Her son, Jonathan Delgado, was born April 27.
As Ms. Pointer her presented her with a goody bag, she said it was no problem.
'We've got some,' Ms. Pointer said. 'We'll get you taken care of.'
Jonathan's goody bag was blue.
But his neighbor, 2-week-old Gracie Wolbrueck - she got a pink bag.
'I'm so grateful for this,' said Destiny, Gracie's mom. 'I'm living with my mother and don't have any real income of my own. You have no idea what it means to be able to give this to my baby.'
Bergman says such comments are common.
'New moms are overwhelmed when they see what we have for them,' Bergman said. 'Bundles of Joy is a great asset to our ministry. When you're a food bank, there are newborns to care for, and we try to do that as best we can.'
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Did you know?
John 3:16 is a theme for the Bundles of Joy program at Helping Hands. The program teaches the Bible passage through the distribution of a children's book called 'God's Great Big Love For Us.' Provided by Altrusa International Inc. of Temple, the books are included in each Bundles of Joy goody bag.
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How to help
Helping Hands Ministry of Belton needs baby food for babies born to mothers in poverty. Donations are welcome at 2210 Holland Road in Belton. Second hand baby clothes and supplies are also welcome. For details, call Jeannette Kelley at 718-4514.

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