Dulce Pauleno (left) and her daughter Fleridania listen to a presentation at an archdiocesan Catholic Social Services baby shower hosted Saturday, July 14 by St. William Parish in Northeast Philadelphia. (Photo by Gina Christian)

Moms-to-be in Northeast Philadelphia got a bump in their budget, thanks to a community baby shower hosted by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS).

More than 120 expectant mothers and their families gathered at St. William Parish on Saturday, July 14 for raffles, demonstrations and giveaways featuring infant clothing, toys and diapers.

“We’re here to celebrate the pregnant moms in the local community,” said Camille Crane, director of Casa del Carmen, one of CSS’s six family service centers, which partnered with the parish to host the free event.

Located in North Philadelphia, Casa del Carmen has assisted the city’s Latino population since 1954, serving approximately 13,000 individuals last year.

According to Crane, Casa del Carmen hosts about four baby showers per year at its site. Saturday’s event marked a first step in working more closely with parishes such as St. William to extend CSS’s outreach to area neighborhoods.

Crane noted that although Casa del Carmen is just over three miles from St. William, the distance can be prohibitive for families that rely strictly on public transportation or foot travel.

“A lot of families here today might not be able to get to us,” she said, adding that the parish had provided “a tremendous amount of advertising” for the event to attract nearby residents.

Sister Rose Patrice Kuhn, I.H.M., who coordinates St. William’s pastoral ministry to Hispanics, said the baby shower showed that “it takes a community to raise a child.”

“With the resources here today, this is the place to come if you have questions,” she said. “Somebody here either has the answer, or is connected to someone who does.”

The parish hall was filled with information tables staffed by health insurers, benefits counselors, and parenting specialists.

Delitza Hernandez-Diaz was on hand to offer insights on improving communications skills in very young children.

“We encourage parents to sit with their child and read,” said Hernandez-Diaz, a research coordinator from the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a clinical think tank for childhood health. “We also provide development guides for the various ages and stages, just to let parents know where their child is at, the things they should be doing.”

Kathleen Bevenour noted that CSS has recently increased the already significant number of baby showers it hosts.

“We’ve been doing 10 to 20 showers per year for almost a decade,” said Bevenour, CSS’s assistant director for community-based services. “Attendance ranges from 25 to 150 per event, so if you add that up, you’re looking at several hundred people per year who are being served.”

Edna Ortiz, who is expecting her baby in October, appreciated the chance to “have some fun” and to get parenting pointers, such as the most hygienic way to change a diaper.

Ortiza joined fellow attendees Eyram Kumassah and Cheryl Wallace at a demonstration table where they practiced changing diapers on life-sized infant dolls.

“I’ve changed plenty of diapers in my day,” Wallace laughed. “Now I’m getting ready to change my grandson’s in November.”

The shower also included a nursery-style version of “The Price Is Right,” where audience members won baby supplies by guessing their correct prices. Food and face painting for older children rounded out the four-hour event, which organizers hope to make an annual one at St. William.

“This is the church reaching out to meet the very practical needs of people,” said Sister Rose.

Cheryl Wallace (left), Edna Ortiz and Eyram Kumassah practice changing diapers on life-size dolls at a Catholic Community Services baby shower hosted July 14 by St. William Parish in Philadelphia. (Gina Christian)