This Mother’s Day, Tempe and Chandler families have opened their hearts and wallets to help new moms and families in need welcome little ones into their homes. A lengthy list of baby items, collected by them for the annual community baby shower project of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest (LSS-SW), reads like a modified version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”: Twelve noisy rattles, 10 cuddly blankets, six baby books, five diaper creams, four soothing lotions, one pair of booties and 25 hand-knit caps — plus 25 Onesies, umpteen boxes of wipes and other items donated by Desert Cross Lutheran Church in Tempe.
An additional 8,000 disposable diapers were brought to school in April by students at St. MaryBasha Catholic School in Chandler for delivery at four baby showers this month at LSS-SW’s Family Resource Centers in Mesa and Phoenix. An outpouring of donations made it possible for the nonprofit to provide gifts to 60 families, from cribs, strollers and car seats to daily necessities.
One of the core tenets of our faith is social justice, so we do drives every month — socks for people experiencing homelessness, food drives — so this just fit with our culture,” said Caitlin Gonzales, whose children, Cesare, a fourth grader, and Vittorio, a first grader, attend St. Mary-Basha. There,18 classrooms of kindergartners through eighth graders brought in scores of boxes of diapers during a 10-day campaign. The deal was sweetened with the prize of a “free dress day” to the class donating the most. “Because our kids wear uniforms, that’s a big deal,” said Gonzales of the no-uniform prize.
More importantly, perhaps, is the opportunity for children to think about people with fewer advantages than they and then to act to help. “It’s important to have kids begin to understand that not all paths start at the same starting line,” Gonzales said. “As humans, it’s up to us to help those in need, and to realize the impact of a lot small actions, that they can build up to big impacts.” The LSS-SW baby shower guests are new parents expecting their first child, those whose babies are under six months old and parents adopting a baby into their family. They may be struggling financially, or far from their home countries and unable to celebrate with family and friends.
“People sometimes don’t understand because, when we have a baby, we are given a baby shower and our family and friends give us all these nice things,” said Sue Smith, a Chandler resident who organized Desert Cross’ drive with fellow church member Sandie Tignor. “But the moms who receive these gifts, they are often isolated because they are far from home, or their families don’t have the resources to give them a good start.” The gifts received by families new to the FRCs are just the icing on the cake, Smith said. “It’s not just the tangible resources, but the opportunities to develop relationships with other parents, to obtain educational materials, parenting helps,” she said. “Some people may think of this event as a oneand-done, but it’s really more. It’s getting these parents off to a good start, and the ripple effect of that good start — we hope they will become better parents, and that their children will be better parents someday, too.”
The baby showers serve as entry points for families to become connected the the FRC and learn myriad free services for children ages birth to 5 and their parents. These range from infant massage workshops, breastfeeding support and developmental screenings to parenting education/ coaching and outside resources and referrals. Despite the challenging COVID-19 pandemic, LSS-SW has hosted community baby showers for moms in need each spring for the past six years. Because the nonprofit’s centers were closed during the pandemic, it hosted virtual baby showers and caravan events in which volunteers loaded up their cars and drove to families’ homes, stopping outside to deliver gifts and love. Whether in-person or virtual, the emotions and gratitude run high, said Chandler resident Abril Coronel, LSS-SW’s FRC program manager for the Southeast Maricopa Region.
“Our families are so grateful, because they can see how, not just the Family Resource Centers, but churches and communities have come together to support them and to let them know they are not alone,” Coronel said. “Even if they don’t have family here in this country, the community supports them.”
Throughout the year, many volunteer opportunities are available at LSS-SW, including childcare and mentorship. To learn more, email email@example.com or call 480-396-3795.