Baby to Toddler Closet volunteers will mark milestone serving young families this year
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Two days every month, volunteers and young parents come together on common ground to take care of Crawford County’s most precious assets – the children of the community.
The Crawford County Baby to Toddler Closet will mark its 10th anniversary this year, assisting young families and their children to be safe and healthy.
The idea to form the Baby to Toddler Closet was raised at a Crawford County Community Collaborative Body meeting. The committee includes numerous community agencies, service groups, churches, and governmental officials.
The mission of the Baby to Toddler Closet, a non-profit organization, is to provide a dignified way of assisting families in building a healthy environment for the development of young children.
Community members support the Baby to Toddler Closet by donating lightly used, clean clothing items, which their children have outgrown, and many other items such as cribs, sheets, quilts, and bibs.
Monetary donations help the organization purchase new socks, underwear, shoes, and boots.
Fundraisers are held to raise money to purchase Pull-Ups, wipes, and diapers.
The Baby to Toddler Closet also collects Spartan Family Fare receipts through the Direct Your Dollars program aimed at supporting non-profit organizations. For each 150,000 Direct You Dollars tallied, organizations are eligible to receive $1,000 to support their cause.
“I’m glad that happened,” said Rose Mary Nelson, the volunteer coordinator for the Baby to Toddler Closet. “I hope it doesn’t end.”
The receipts are collected by volunteers and at drop off sites including the St. Francis’ Episcopal Church, Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church, the Grayling Free Methodist Church, Wendy’s, the Medicine Shoppe, Tip’ n The Mitten, the American Legion Post #106, and Kim’s Magic Nails.
Since the Direct Your Dollars program was launched, the Baby to Toddler Closet has garnered $4,000 to assist local families. The organization is going to submit receipts to receive another $2,000.
Rose Mary’s husband, Wayne Nelson, the faithful volunteer for the Baby to Toddler Closet, tracks the receipts as they come in.
“Wayne does a lot,” Rose Mary said. “They’re all over the living room when he is tabulating the receipts.”
The Baby to Toddler Closet has 16 volunteers, some who staff the days they are open, and others who sew, knit, and crochet quilts and blankets.
The volunteers make bobby pillows for new mothers.
“They’re like a horseshoe and they put them around the children when they nurse the babies,” Rose Mary said.
Material and yarn are given to the volunteers as those items are donated.
“They want to still do it, so they do it for us,” Rose Mary said. “It keeps the senior citizens busy.”
Housed in the basement at the Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church, the Baby to Toddler Closet is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month.
In 2009, when the Baby to Toddler Closet was open for four months, it helped 90 families and gave out 1,800 Pull-Ups and diapers. In 2018, the organization assisted 765 families and distributed 12,570 Pull-Ups and diapers to help keep babies’ bottoms clean and dry.
An average of 55 parents come to the Baby to Toddler Closet per month to get supplies, clothing, and other items for their little ones.
A total of 29 parents came to the Baby to Toddler Closet recently to get clothing and supplies for 73 children in the community.
Rose Mary stressed that the organization does not give handouts, but a hand up to young families in need. The Baby to Toddler Closet works closely with the District Health Department #10 and Crawford County Community Christian Help Center to assist families in their time of need. The St. Francis Thrift store also helps the families and new cribs can be obtained through the Frederic Township Fire Department and EMS Service to keep babies safe.
“We’re just here to help. It’s only for the children,” Rose Mary said. “They wouldn’t come if they didn’t need the items for the kids. We just greet them and try to help them out.”
Pam Alexander, a retired teacher, serves as the assistant coordinator for the Baby to Toddler Closet and helps with some of the administrative duties.
“I enjoy it a lot and I feel I’m giving back to the community,” she said. “I love all the young families that come through. It’s nice to be able to help them.”
Stephanie Kramer said the Baby to Toddler Closet helps her and her three children make it from month-to-month.
“It means a lot to me,” she said. “I work full-time, but it’s still never enough to make ends meet. This is like the little bit of the middle that comes in to help where I can’t. This is a great place.”
Kramer suggested other parents check out the Baby for Toddler Closet to get the items they need for their children.
“The ladies here are great. If there’s something they don’t have, you can just ask them, and they will help you find it,” she said. “I don’t think I would be able to survive without this place being here.”
Jacob Lukima said the Baby to Toddler Closet came to his aid when he assumed custody of his two children.
“It helps me when I’m low on cash and I need Pull-Ups, wipes, and diapers,” he said. “They have clothes and stuff for the winter and it helps. They’re all wonderful people and they all help me out.”
Chelsea Whepley said the Baby to Toddler Closet is a big help for her three children.
“It helps with stuff with the kids,” she said. “It helps a lot. It helps with clothes, because they grow out of clothes real fast.”
Rose Mary said the organization sees a greater demand for help from parents during the winter months as parents try to stretch their funds to pay the bills.
“They need to be warm and dry,” Rosemary said about the children.
The Baby to Toddler Closet also has a book reading program. Volunteer Judy Clyma reads books to the children when they come to the Baby to Toddler Closet. The parents can also take home books.
“We check out books for parents to read to their children and books for the children to look at and learn, which opens up new worlds for them,” Rose Mary said.
The Baby to Toddler Closet also helps out parents in emergency situations.
“It they call me, we come out and I give them what they need,” Rose Mary said.
To make a donation or for more information about the Baby to Toddler Closet, call (989) 348-2985.