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This article was published 5/2/2015 (2360 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Maybe it’s true that you can’t spoil a baby, but a growing community of volunteers is nurturing newborns through customized gift donations.
Three years ago, Charleswood resident Pamela Delisle created a group called You Can’t Spoil a Baby to provide new and gently-used baby items for families in need. Thanks to contributions from generous donors, the initiative has provided much-needed resources to approximately 315 financially vulnerable families across the city and in rural Manitoba.
Her project is founded on the notion that every baby deserves an equal start. Donors and recipients are valued equally, and the connections help to form a stronger community.
With a wait list that often exceeds 100 names, more donors and volunteers are now needed to keep the project going.
"It started as a simple goal. My daughter had started to outgrow her baby clothes and I had a practical desire to find something good to do with them. I didn’t feel like just dumping them in one of those donation bins on the corner of the street," Delisle said.
"Because I had worked as a social worker before at Women’s Hospital, I knew that there were many families who didn’t have baby clothes. I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to connect with them and distribute the clothes in that way."
For the first two years, Delisle co-ordinated about 10 different donation drop spots around the city, which allowed her to distribute baby clothes to about 100 families annually.
Then last February, she shifted her approach to connect donors directly with families in need, who usually spend about six months on a wait list.
"The benefit is that I have more time to co-ordinate and reach out to donors," she said.
"We’re actually able to provide a gift that’s almost like a full baby shower to people. Instead of just the clothing, now we can do all of the baby gear as well."
Donation packages from individuals or groups contain clothing from newborn sizes up to 18 months. As well, each bundle contains at least three additional baby items such as diapers, baby carriers, strollers, bedding or toys.
"Our custom baby gifts come with no strings attached because we assume these families in financial need are inherently good and trustworthy and that by asking for help they are showing strength," Delisle said.
"We pride ourselves in giving gifts, not donations or handouts. The difference to us is that we acknowledge that both the donor family and the family in need benefit from this exchange, as does our project and the greater Manitoba community. The gifts of new or once-loved baby clothes and items are thoughtfully packaged, given with a card and happily delivered by a donor family or group."
Coming full circle, many of the gift recipients will become donors themselves.
That’s the case for North End resident Samantha Sutton, who put her name on the wait list last July. After receiving a package for her baby girl in December, she has already paid it forward by providing gifts for two other families in need.
"Pamela and her family put a basket together for me. It made things a lot easier. It was really nice to know that there was a support system like that," said Sutton, a mother of three.
"We actually took all the small toys and clothes that my daughter wasn’t using and donated them to somebody who needed them. It was really nice."
Like Sutton, St. Vital resident Tricia Bachewich felt compelled to get involved.
As a mother of twin baby boys, she had a stack of outgrown baby items that she wanted to donate. Through an online search, she discovered You Can’t Spoil a Baby.
"I helped the first family and they were so appreciative that I wanted to keep doing it," she said.
"I put a feeler out on Facebook to see if there were any people who wanted to donate, and there were a whole bunch."
Since last summer, Bachewich has arranged donation drop-off depots around the city every few months. She was also involved in a clothing drive at a church that contributed leftover items.
In total, she’s compiled close to 50 gift packages for families in need. She also tries to include toys and clothes for older siblings, specifically suited to each family.
"My mom helps me package everything and wrap it and then I deliver it to the families," she said. "It’s a nice feeling."
As the organization’s founder, Delisle feels proud to connect families who might never have met while also helping to foster a supportive parenting network.
To keep the momentum going, Delisle is seeking more donor families and groups to be matched with families expecting a baby or with a newborn. To get involved, they can complete an online application at www.youcantspoilababy.org
"We hope our donors will see how we offer them a unique experience to connect with their community and an alternative of what to do with their once-loved baby items," Delisle said.
"We have received feedback from donors stating that they are thrilled to know that 100 per cent of their donation makes it into the lives of new Manitoban babies."
For more information, contact Delisle at 204-475-1285 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For those with smaller donations, Bachewich invites them to contact her at email@example.com. She will combine donations to create comprehensive gift bundles.