The Clare County Baby Pantry hosted the Baby Pantries of Michigan Conference 2013 on Wednesday, April 24. Baby Pantries attending included Benzie County Baby Pantry, Carol’s Baby Pantry of Iosco County, Crawford County Baby to Toddler Chest, First Baptist Baby Pantry of Newberry (Luce County), Grand Traverse County Baby Pantry, Roscommon County/Houghton Lake Baby Pantry, Sanilac County Baby Pantry, South Grandville Baby Supply Pantry, and the St. John’s Baby Pantry in Clinton County.
Over fifty baby pantries have been identified in the state and can trace their roots to the St. John’s Baby Pantry. Molly Minnick, Infant Mental Health Specialist with Gratiot County Community Mental Health Services, founded the first baby pantry in Michigan. She visited the original baby pantry program, “Master’s Lambs Ministry” outside Hazard, Kentucky in 1996 through a program sponsored by Ladies Home Journal. When she returned to St. Johns, Molly spent several months doing research. The need was evident in her community, a location was found, and funds from the community were raised. Seventeen years later she is still an active participant in the St. John’s Baby Pantry.
The participants in this year’s conference heard several excellent speakers: Kathy Kerr and Patricia Miller related Clare County Baby Pantry’s story of how it started in 2004; Pastor Connie Bongard, Farwell United Methodist Church, told how she developed an interest in helping young mothers years ago and remains active encouraging the community to support these families; Sarah M. Kile, from the Central Michigan District Health Department, shared part of her message as a facilitator for Bridges Out Of Poverty workshops; Brandi Warner, Clare-Gladwin Early On Family Services Coordinator also encouraged those in attendance to build relationships with parents; Betsy Ulicki, Children’s Protective Services worker for Clare County DHS told participants positive things that DHS can do for families in need.
Individual baby pantries made several presentations at the end of the conference. Car seat safety technician Rev. Marilou Schlotterbeck of Benzie County Baby Pantry addressed the importance of correctly installed car seats. Kathy Smith of St. John’s Baby Pantry showed photos of Making Layettes by the CAN Kids. Kathy Kerr of Clare County Baby Pantry showed the Excel spreadsheet she developed to track the items given out. Vicki Stickler told how a Diaper Bank works. She hopes to start a Clare-Gladwin Diaper Bank with a connection to the Midland Area Diaper Alliance in the near future.
Clare County Baby Pantry volunteers that attended the conference include JoAnne Baxter, Linda Bearss, Cathy Blake, Pastor Connie Bongard, Jean Burrows, Barb Christensen, Sandy DeWitt, Sue Foltz, Joann Hintz, Kathy Kerr, Patricia Miller, Peggy Smith, and Elaine Thompson. First Congregational Church members who helped in the kitchen were Marty Anderson, Jan Haskin, Sharill Knoll, Marie Roth, and Joan Sellers.
Anyone who wishes to get more information about the Clare County Baby Pantry may contact us at 989-539-7956. We are taking donations on Wednesdays from 10 – 3 at the back door of the First congregational Church. Donations of clean summer clothes, shoes, toys, books, are appreciated at this time. Donations of canned, goods, macaroni and cheese, and diapers are welcome year around. Please contact us at the same telephone number if you wish to volunteer your time Wednesdays at the pantry or make a financial contribution.