With family budgets battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new initiative is providing area infants and children with much-needed clothing.

Archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS) recently launched “Clothing Cuties” at its Northeast Family Service Center (NFSC) in Philadelphia. The center is one of five CSS sites (all beneficiaries of the annual Catholic Charities Appeal) that offer a broad range of support to families throughout the area.

The NFCS’s effort helps clients struggling to keep up with growing kids and shrinking income.

“Onesies, boy and girl outfits, bibs, baby bath tubs, washcloths” and shoes are being collected, said NFSC administrator Beth Wood.

To limit the risk of spreading the coronavirus, Wood said that she and her staff “prefer clothing donations to be newly purchased.”

However, gently worn, laundered donations will be accepted, she said, and all non-clothing items are sanitized before being given to clients. The clothing itself is placed in clear plastic bags before being distributed.

According to a Pew Research report last month, the pandemic drove unemployment higher in three months than did the Great Recession in two years (2007-2009).

Experts note that financial distress in a household, particularly during the first three years of a child’s life, can have long-term consequences on both mental and physical health.

Those effects have been compounded by the fact that many Philadelphia area families were already battling food insecurity and lack of affordable housing prior to the pandemic.

“Nobody should have to worry about clothing, feeding or diapering their babies,” said Allison Kane, a pregnancy and parenting educator at NFSC. “They have enough worries in their lives.”

Kane said that clients have been “very surprised” to learn of the Clothing Cuties outreach, but “very receptive.”

“Some parents were very worried due to the hardship they faced from COVID-19,” said Kane.

So far, NFSC staff have assembled 585 items, with a goal of 1,000 in sight.

“That is why we’re here,” said Kane. “Everyone needs help sometimes.”