Women Collects Baby Items for Moms

Article published Sep 11, 2007

Woman collects baby items for moms

Telegraph Correspondent

Kathi Lewis has drawers and drawers full of baby clothes in her home, even though her child has already finished college.  She enjoys looking through her collection, and for Lewis, receiving more clothes is a gift. “Everyday is like Christmas,” she said. “I never know what’s going to be left at the doorstep.” She takes the clothes and carefully looks through them, imagining them covering tiny newborn babies. Lewis, 50, started collecting gently used baby clothes, blankets and other items several months ago after she decided to start a project called Welcome Bundles. She takes the clothes she receives and puts them into small packages wrapped with a blanket and tied with a ribbon.

The bundles are given to area social workers, who give them to new mothers as gifts. Lewis is hoping more area social workers whose clients need infant clothing will contact her, as well. The Hollis resident said the project began after a local preschool held a clothing drive and had leftover clothing. She offered to take the clothing to an organization in Nashua where they would be put to good use. While there, she was told the program also had a need for newborn clothing. “From there I just said, ‘Wow, there is a great need for this,’ ” Lewis said. So she started spreading the word and collecting. Before long, she had drawers full of clothing stored in her daughter’s old bedroom. Lewis finds sorting the items relaxing and loves to connect with other people for a good cause. “People are incredibly generous if you tell them what the need is and how they can participate,” she said.

As she spoke about the project in her home several weeks ago, she laid out crocheted items a friend of hers made for the packages. “I mean, what baby doesn’t deserve a gift?” she said. The mothers who receive the packages – filled with items in sizes 0 to 6 months – have a limited income. Lewis regularly delivers the bundles to Child Health Services in Manchester, as well as Child and Family Services divisions, all over the state.

She collects outfits, sleepers, onesies, bibs, hats, booties, crib sheets, lap pads and blankets to put into the bundles. Mother and Child Clothing and Gifts, a Nashua consignment store, also collects clothing for Lewis at its location in Greystone Plaza on Amherst Street. She usually has more girls clothing than boys, she added. She has made about 57 bundles so far and likes to keep social workers stocked up with five bundles for baby boys and five for little girls.

Lewis, who is also a substitute special-education teacher at Hollis/Brookline Middle School, stresses the clothes she gives are like new and only gently worn. They are “something you would be happy to take to the hospital if your neighbor had a baby,” she said. She imagines how the moms must feel when they receive the gifts, she said, but it doesn’t bother her that she doesn’t get to see their reactions herself.

Cheri Lebel is a social worker for Child and Family Services’ Healthy Families program, a nursing and home visiting program for low-income, pregnant moms. She gets to see the moms’ response, since she is able to give the packages to them at the hospital. “Oh my god, they absolutely love them,” she said. “I make them open them while I am there because I’m nosy, too. They are so beautiful.” They are designed to look like gifts, and the mothers do not know they will receive them. Lebel usually gives them the package soon after they give birth. “When the girls open it up, they go through one piece at a time and say ‘Oh, this is so cute. This is perfect,’ ” Lebel said. Lebel is able to e-mail Lewis when she gets low on the bundles and Lewis delivers more.

JoAnn Cobb, program director at Healthy Families, said employees work with women in the program throughout their pregnancy and until their baby turns 1. The program always has a lot of need for infant clothing and supplies, so they welcomed Lewis and her donations when she first contacted them. The agency receives a lot of donations, she added, but most of them are dropped off in large bunches. Social workers have to go through them and sort the piles out. They appreciate every donation, Cobb said. But the packages they receive from Lewis are already prepared, which makes things a bit easier for workers. Welcome Bundles each have a special touch, Cobb added. “That’s very helpful to us and unusual,” she said.