The Shelter Baby Project
In my years as a Grade One teacher I taught children who were residents at an emergency shelter for women fleeing abuse. They did not fit any stereotypes which some people have about the famileis in which abuse occurs. One was a boy who was a top student, with beautiful expensive clothes, whose mother told him to say that they were staying in a hotel.
Because I knew that some of these families arrived at the shelter in the middle of the night with only what they could carry, I decided in 2009 to start making up gift bags for all babies, from in-utero to 24 months-about 80 bags a year.
These gifts consisted of day and night clothing, books, a stuffed animal, baby blanket, socks, and small items such as rattles and soothers. Of course this means I go to all the sales of baby clothes-Old Navy, Children’s Place, Sears, Joe Fresh, even yard sales which may have some new with tags items.
The most stunning situation I was told of happened the week before Christmas 2011, when a woman arrived in pre-term labour, with her 8 month old on her hip.
While I was a teacher my colleagues helped collect stuff for me, high chairs, strollers, other large items. In September of 2012 I informed my contact at the shelter that I was expanding the gifts up to age 6 (meaning, every child who has not yet reached their 7th birthday) and also the mothers.
For the 2-6 years olds I collect hats, mitts, socks, t-shirts, crayons, books, toothbrushes and toothpaste, stickers etc.
For the moms, I collect gift basket quality toiletries, socks, mitts, pajamas, t-shirts etc.
I am often asked if lightly used clothes etc. are welcome. I do accept them and when told by my contact that a mom in need wants a particular items, like a breast pump, formula, diapers, or size two girls’ clothes, I can usually supply what is requested. Of course this is not just due to my own shopping sprees, but to all the many moms who donate either new or pre-loved items to the project.
If you would like to contribute you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (905)453-8095 (Christine)