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100 Women Giving Thanks-supporting babies in their first year of life

'They get diapers, they get either breastfeeding supplies or a certificate to get formula, and they get wipes. They can choose whatever four or five items they need off the table, whether it’s soothers or blankets or snacks or anything else they need' Linda McLay Trinity Infant Food Shelf.

A casual family conversation about the Infant Food Shelf at Trinity United Church in North Bay and the launch of the 100 Women-100 Dollars-100 hours fundraising campaign touched the heart of 11-year-old Ella Oschefski .

She was so moved, that she donated $100 of her own money to help ensure the needs of babies are met during their first year of life.

“I’m thankful that as a baby, I never went hungry, but sadly for some babies, that is not the case. Their parents are challenged with the struggles of trying to feed these rapidly growing babies,” said Oschefski speaking to campaign supporters during the official launch Tuesday.

“Over the next 100 hours, 100 women will be asked to donate $100 to help families in need. As one of the women in my family, I would love to be one of those 100 women. Please accept my donation of $100.”  

The goal of the 100 Women Giving Thanks initiative is to raise $10,000 by 6 p.m.Friday. 

It costs about $60 per child, per visit, to provide caregivers with the supplies they need.

“Ten thousand dollars will almost do a full year for us,” said Linda McLay, coordinator of the Infant Food Shelf.

“Our budget for a full year is between $12,000 to $14,000. So if we reach our goal of $10,000,  that is a huge amount of money for us.”   

Last year the program assisted 115 children throughout their first year of life.

It starts before the child is even born, with the donation of a layette, a set of clothing, linens, and sometimes toiletries for a newborn child. After that, caregivers are allowed one visit a month until the child reaches its first birthday.

The program started in September, 2014 after the church received a bequest from the estate of the late Iris Scott.

“As anticipated, we are burning through that seed money at a remarkable rate. We took this ministry because it so needs to happen in this community. An answered prayer looks like this,” said Reverend Ted Harrison as he looked out across the room.

“The program continues to grow as word gets out. We wanted to create an atmosphere where families could come in and hear all kinds of good things about what they’re doing right because so often they don’t hear that,” said McLay.

“They get diapers, they get either breastfeeding supplies or a certificate to get formula, and they get wipes. They can choose whatever four or five items they need off the table, whether it’s soothers or blankets or snacks or anything else they need. Each family will get say a sleep sack for their baby, so we can teach them about safe sleep, said McLay.”

“As the baby grows to six months, they get nutritional information, so we transition to cereal and baby food. We try and help the caregivers figure out how to make baby food, and do things a little less expensively.”

Spearheaded by former pediatric nurse and child mental health therapist Wendy Abdallah, she told those gathered at the launch that it is vitally important that infants and caregivers are supported during the child’s first year of life.

”There are few things in my mind that are more important than the bond of a baby and the caregiver. It’s easy to provide lullabys and smiles to your infant when you’re not worried about using the last diaper, or when the next warm bottle of formula will come,” said Abdallah.

She went on to say that donating to the campaign is a commitment toward the wellbeing of all infants and their caregivers.   

”Babies needs that are met quickly and warmly achieve a special bond with the caregiver, necessary for a healthy, parent-child relationship.”  

Campaign donor Lise St-Georges says giving back to the community is critical.

“We work with women at the courthouse that have a lot of struggles, and we often see people in need. So it’s important.”

Crystal Laporte understands how expensive it is raising a child.

“I think this is going to be incredible. With money struggles and the cost of raising a child, formula, diapers all that kind of stuff, it’s very costly.”

In addition to raising money, the campaign is also about raising awareness.

“There has always been a demand. So this is partly to say that we exist and that the Infant Food Shelf is available to anyone in the community. You do not have to live in North Bay. You can be from outside the region as well. A child in need, is a child in need,” said Abdallah.

 “Health education is offered on infant nutrition, safe sleep practices, child development, and safety. During the winter months, hats and mitts might also be provided if needed.”

There are no administration fees. One hundred percent of the funds stay local.  

The program runs every Wednesday at the church.

“There is no income testing. If they walk through the door, that’s good enough for us,” said the program coordinator Linda McLay.  

Donations can be made by eTransfer to Password: givingthanks

Cheques are to be made payable to Trinity Infant Food Shelf,  and can be dropped off at Trinity United Church on McIntyre Street, Cor Maximus on Seymour Street or Hands TheFamilyHelpNetwork on Oak Street.

If $100 is out of reach, the campaign will gladly accept lesser amounts.