How receptive would you be about attending a baby shower for somebody you didn’t even know? How willing would you be to sew a bootie or a burp cloth for an infant you’d never see?
A group of women that meets regularly in North Charleston do this all the time. During September, they specifically channel their energies to making sleepwear for babies to keep a child warm in the winter months that are coming. Again, they don’t know the mother, haven’t seen how that child looks, or even bounced that little one on a knee.
The group is known as Newborns in Need. The local chapter started in 2001 and is one of 30 chapters across the country.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Montague Avenue allows the group to meet in the building once a month. Every member of the group is a volunteer. Most of them know how to sew, but that’s not a prerequisite to joining.
The biggest common denominator is a desire to make sure every mom knows her child is special.
Brenda Kanehl is the current president of the local group of volunteers. She boils their mission down into a few quick phrases. “We make ’em, collect ’em and give ’em away.” Every item, whether handmade or store-bought, that comes into their organization is donated. Nothing is held in storage.
These items are sent to agencies including Lowcountry Pregnancy Center, Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers, Neighborhood House and Our Lady of Mercy on Johns Island. The group doesn’t donate anything in person; they’re not set up to do that. They create or collect the items and deliver them to the agencies. Those agencies know best where the needs exist.
Pat Barkley, a longtime volunteer, has two grown sons but lost a child years ago.
“Who can resist a baby?” says Barkley. Besides, adds the transplant from Maryland, “We can only sew so much for our own grandchildren.”
Another volunteer is Doris Sigwald of Meggett. Sigwald is in her 80s, never had children and loves to sew. After receiving one of Sigwald’s blankets, a young mom with no family said that she felt like “it wrapped me in my grandmother’s love.”
In addition to blankets, burp cloths, hats and sleepers, some of the volunteers also make something called a “taggie.” Ever heard of one?
It’s basically a blanket with lots of attached labels or tags. Young babies can develop an attachment for reasons of security as well as something different for texture and even teething. This has become another popular item to provide for new mothers and their babies. Each one of those attachments are sewn to that blanket without the sewer ever knowing if the child liked it or the mother received an extra few minutes of rest because of it.
For the remainder of this month, this group is concentrating on gathering as many sleepers as possible. Sizes needed are newborn to 12 months, often called the onesie.
Between the taggie and the onesie, I’m not sure which end is up right now. Glad I’m not in charge of changing a diaper.
In any event, Newborns in Need offers drop-off locations at various points in the Lowcountry.
They can be found at the Mount Pleasant Regional Library at 1133 Mathis Ferry Road, Berkeley County Library-Daniel Island at 2301 Daniel Island Drive and the Hanahan Library at 1216 Murray Drive.
In North Charleston, St. Thomas Episcopal Church at 1150 E. Montague Ave. also accepts donations.
Volunteers who want to help but don’t sew are asked to watch for sales and donate (only new items) when they’re able.
Does helping a child in your community you don’t even know seem to be a noble gesture?
Does knowing that a mother will leave a hospital with something handmade that might have a little extra love stitched in to that fabric, make a difference?
Who knows the right answers to these questions? What seems more important is that these volunteers don’t even seem to need to ask.
Reach Warren Peper at email@example.com