Diapers, wipes, sleep sacks, and formula are among more than a dozen items being asked for by the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County in this year’s Community Baby Shower. For the ninth year in a row, the organization is encouraging people to host their own collection events at home, at work, or out in the community.
Each year, thousands of babies are born into poverty in Erie County and, each week, eight infants are born to women receiving late prenatal care or none at all, leading to higher risk of health issues and a limited chance of survival. United Way President Michael Wiener says the items that many people take for granted are critical to mothers and families living below the poverty line.
“They don’t have sufficient finances, they have travel barriers, they may be challenged physically, are unable to have access to these types of items,” explained Wiener.
Once collected and donated to the United Way, the items are packaged into individual tote bags and distributed through local organizations Jericho Road, Catholic Charities, and Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network.
“They have direct access to the consumers in our community that need these products the most,” said Wiener. “They know the moms that are struggling financially and from a health standpoint.”
Danielle Gilbert is one of those moms. When her now one-year-old daughter Tiponi was born, she had nothing but a crib waiting at home for her. Gilbert recalled the moment she received her bag from last year’s baby shower.
“For one, it was ‘Oh my gosh, someone cares enough to send this to me,’” said Gilbert. “And I was just completely shocked because I didn’t really think there were programs that helped that much. There’s the usual referral that you can go here, you can sign up for this program. But they actually gave physical things that helped my daughter, and I was so grateful for that.”
The supplies helped Gilbert get through the first month of Tiponi’s life. Since then, she’s found continued support through the Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network, whose staff continued to supply diapers, wipes, and clothing for the baby, while helping Gilbert with access to housing, nutrition, employment, and education.
New to the list of items being requested for the Community Baby Shower this year are books. Wiener says they were added to the list because of the importance of development through reading in the early stages of a child’s life.
“Not when they’re infants, but perhaps when they’re six months old, nine months old – to begin to be exposed to colors, letters, numbers, and storytelling,” said Wiener. “It’s another way for moms to engage newborns, and it’s a nice developmental asset to help nurture and support reading at an early age.”
The Community Baby Shower runs from April 2 to May 10, and this year’s goal is to gather enough supplies for 2,000 bags. Also new to this year’s event is what the United Way is calling a “Live Drive” at Wegmans markets on McKinley Parkway and Alberta Drive on April 19, where people can drop off supplies to be picked up by the United Way.
More information on the Community Baby Shower is available online at the United Way’s website.