At least 500 mothers and their families attended “Philly’s Biggest Baby Shower” on Saturday morning, September 9 at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Center City.  This first year event was a collaboration between Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia and the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia.

Free diapers and other essential baby care items were collected in advance of the event from “so many generous people,” said Kathleen Bevenour, Assistant Director of Catholic Social Services Community Based Service Division.

“Parishes, schools, and other donors have supported this effort,” she said.

Bevenour says Catholic Social Services has hosted many community baby showers in Philadelphia and its counties for close to 10 years, but this is the first time they held one of this magnitude.

“We work with moms in the community to support them through this beautiful, but also stressful time,” she said.

“About 100 people were lined up outside the entrance by 9:00 a.m.,” said Amy Stoner, LSW, Director of Catholic Social Services Community Based and Housing and Homeless Services Division.

Stoner said she was happy that “everybody left with something,” referring to the many donated baby products and raffle gifts.  “People really responded with donations,” she said.

Stoner hopes to make this an annual event, saying it well complements the “Boot-Up Philly” event held every October. That initiative distributes warm clothing to those in need ahead of the winter months.

Saturday’s event featured 15 vendors – including providers of health insurance, financial services, and social services, in addition to the raffles, educational tents, and food.

Mothers – both expecting and those with young children – were able to select from the many donations of clothing for babies and young children, and stock up on diapers, wipes, and other necessities.

CSS staff were present to distribute diapers, wipes, and more to those facing obstacles to obtaining infant and childcare necessities. (Photo: Catholic Social Services)

Their young children enjoyed the opportunity to play in two colorful bouncy houses, and everyone enjoyed the DJ, along with free soft pretzels and water ice provided by the Knights of Columbus La Rábida Council 1191.

“We care about women during pregnancy and also both mom and child after birth,” said Mickey Kelly from La Rábida Council 1191.

Nutritional Development Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was one of the social services providers which attended the event.  “We gave away 300 snack bags in 10 minutes,” said Lizanne Hagedorn, Executive Director of NDS.

SPIN of Northeast Philadelphia attended the event to spread the word about their free pre-school program and services for people of all ages with autism and intellectual and developmental needs.

Deacon Mark Kuhn and Nancy Hoyt, co-leaders of a St. Paul’s Street Evangelization team in Philadelphia, hosted a prayer tent.  Kuhn prayed with many mothers in English, Spanish, and French, and gave away free books and religious items.

Kuhn said mothers came to him asking to pray for “the welfare of their families and for stability.”  Pregnant mothers “asked for safe delivery,” he said, and some “asked for help finding employment.”

Shaniquea, a young mom of three, attended the event.  As she held her baby born on July 21, she said events like this help her growing family.

Ana and James of Levittown attended with their son, daughter, and a third child on the way.  Ana said she learned about the event from a mothers’ group she attends.  “It’s a fun event for the family,” Ana said.

The young couple said they felt fortunate to get a package of newborn diapers before the supply ran out, and they also enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Archbishop Nelson Pérez, who attended the event and spoke with many mothers, children, and volunteers.

“It was amazing to simply walk around and meet families and people with great passion for the gift of life,” said the Archbishop.

The outdoor event also featured prizes, food, and parenting education classes. (Photo: Catholic Social Services)

“This first ever ‘Philly’s Biggest Baby Shower’ is essential as we continue to provide help and resources to moms who choose life for their children,” said Tom Stevens, president and CEO of Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia.

“People need to know that there are resources out there.  There’s help, and there are people and communities who care,” he said.  “We just need to spread the word.  The bottom line is that there is never a reason to choose abortion and having financial challenges shouldn’t be the reason.  We will help.”

“[Moms] come to us with some uncertainties,” said Bevenour.  “Some aren’t sure if they’re ready [to become moms], and [some are] considering other options,” she said.  “Moms might not have family and support, so we fill in those gaps with education, emotional support, and sharing best practices for parenting.”

Bevenour said she feels gratification when moms she’s helped in the past grow in confidence and “come back with a beautiful baby or toddler, and they refer other moms to us.  It’s the best work,” she said.

To connect with parenting resources throughout the Philadelphia area, contact Catholic Social Services and the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia.