When the women of St. Aidan-St. Patrick’s launched a baby donation drive they weren’t sure what to expect. Days later, items began pouring in by the truckload – so many that they packed a classroom in the parish hall.
“Several people were crying when they saw it all,” said Margo Brooks, a member of the St. Aidan-St. Patrick’s Women’s Group in Cumberland. “People are very generous. There were bags and bags of homemade baby blankets – it’s just beautiful.”
While the coronavirus pandemic shut down nearly every business in the state, the number of women in need with infants and young children only continued to grow. The items collected by St. Aidan-St. Patrick’s will help fill a void for St. Gabriel’s Call, a Diocese of Providence program that provides free assistance to pregnant women and mothers across the state.
“We are running out of things quickly,” said Lisa Cooley, coordinator of Life and Family for the Diocese of Providence. “We typically rely on parish-sponsored baby showers to keep Gabriel’s Call afloat but because of COVID, many parishes aren’t coming together.”
As St. Aidan-St. Patrick proved, it can be done. Although the drive, which began in early March, came to an abrupt end when the pandemic hit, Brooks said people were contacting her throughout the shutdown to find out when they would be able to drop off donations.
“People were excited about it,” she said. “Some younger women are actually now interested in joining our group because it’s service oriented, and they love that approach.”
The donation drive began again in June, when the parish opened for Sunday Mass. When it came time to put together the baskets – everything from diapers to bottles and blankets – the Women’s Group was ready. Decked out in masks, and with antibacterial readily available, volunteers gathered outside one evening in July to prepare – respecting social distancing guidelines of course.
“It really struck a chord with me,” said Alison King, a St. Aidan-St. Patrick parishioner and the mother of three children who attended the outdoor volunteer event. “I kept going back to Target to buy more – I just kept thinking about how lucky we are and how some people have nothing.”
While the St. Aidan-St. Patrick project focused on infants, Gabriel’s Call accepts new and gently used items for children up to age 5. In fact, Cooley says the largest need is often toddler diapers and clothes. In addition to material items, Gabriel’s Call provides access to Diocese social services and also helps coordinate support through other agencies.
“These women are choosing life,” Cooley said. “We want to support them not only with material goods but also spiritually and emotionally. More so than ever, we are seeing people who have never asked for help and don’t know where to turn.”
To learn more about how to support St. Gabriel’s Call, contact the Office of Life and Family at 401-421 -7833.