Babies (and parents) in the city’s Mayfair section are feeling a bit more comfortable, thanks to a recent donation of diapers and formula to archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS).
On May 6, staff at CSS’s Northeast Family Service Center took delivery of close to 70 boxes of diapers, along with cases of infant formula and more than 120 packages of baby wipes — a “really helpful” item that is “not donated as much,” said site administrator Beth Wood.
The supplies were the gift of Seven Mile Road Church in Philadelphia and the Bucks County-based nonprofit Kottayam Association.
Together the organizations raised a combined $3,000 to purchase the products, which Wood said will be given to a client base that has “doubled if not tripled” in number during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seven Mile Road member Nichole Bianchimano came across CSS in her work as a neonatal intensive care nurse for underserved populations in Philadelphia.
After learning from Wood that baby items at the site were running low, Bianchimano enlisted fellow church members, who “started seeing donations come within minutes” after posting an online fundraising campaign, she said.
Through the church, the Kottayam Association — which has supported the Missionary Sisters of Charity in Norristown, among other outreaches — learned of the effort, said president Joby George.
The economic fallout from the coronavirus has left already at-risk families struggling to obtain even basic necessities, said Wood.
“Food is our most needed item,” she said, pointing to increased emergency pantry deliveries from archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services (NDS) and the nonprofit Caring for Friends.
Currently, some 100 children are receiving a total of 300 breakfasts and 30 lunches through the federally funded children’s meal program that NDS administers, said Wood.
Baby supplies are also vital to the center’s clients, since panicked buying due to stay-at-home orders depleted diaper stock at many area stores.
Although shelves are slowly being replenished, pandemic-related unemployment has left families struggling to make ends meet.
With a single baby requiring about $80 worth of diapers per month, “diaper need” can take a toll on both children and parents, said Amy Stoner, director of CSS’s community-based, housing and homeless services.
“Babies who are sitting in dirty diapers for long periods of time can develop rashes and urinary tract infections,” she said. “It’s a major health issue.”
Emotional well-being is also at risk, said Stoner, since “when a baby is sick and has difficulty calming herself down, it leads in turn to frustration for the parents.”
Both CSS and NDS are providing free diapers in response to a growing demand for aid throughout the area.
In addition, Wood said her center’s parent educators are calling clients daily “to make sure they have the resources to get through the pandemic,” from financial to mental health assistance.
With stay-at-home orders still in place, parenting classes – which offer guidance in pre- and post-natal care, bath tub safety and stress relief – are now being offered through the Zoom online meeting platform. Instructors are also dropping off essential items to client homes.
“Our techniques have changed a bit, but we are making it work, and certainly doing our best in meeting the needs of the community,” said Wood.
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