When Ahwatukee resident Margaret Ramsay joined the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee four years ago, one of the first projects she signed on to be of help was for the club’s inaugural Community Baby Shower.
Now the club’s incoming president, Ramsay remains active with this Kiwanis project, and is preparing for the next shower Sept. 28.
The Kiwanis Community Baby Shower is for teen girls who are pregnant or have babies. Sometimes teen fathers are also on the guest list.
The event is by invitation only and as in years past, it is designed as a celebratory event, complete with baby shower decorations, refreshments for those attending and of course, baby gifts.
“We feel that by offering support and help to these young parents and their children, we’re helping them beat the odds in becoming just another statistic,” said Andi Pettyjohn, Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee past-president and 27-year member.
Teen moms in foster care, young mothers who’ve aged out of foster care and parenting teens from Compadre High School’s TeenAge Pregnancy Program (TAPP) are among those feted.
Donations of new and gently-used items for infants and children up to age five are welcomed and collected throughout Ahwatukee until Monday, Sept. 16.
Some needs include: cribs, strollers, clothing for infants and toddlers, shoes, baby blankets, diapers, toys, gift cards and more. Monetary donations and additional desserts are also appreciated.
For Ramsay, the past four years of working with her fellow Kiwanians to make the Community Baby Shower meaningful for attendees, has been eye-opening in regards to the club members’ compassion and dedication to their mission – “making the maximum positive effort for children in our community”.
“I’ve seen it grow from a small, start-up project to one that encompasses the entire community,” Ramsay said. “Each mother is given a basket of new clothing, a blanket, toy, and sippy cup or bottles and for many, an umbrella stroller.
“Our local Key Clubs have been very helpful in sorting the clothing and babysitting the older siblings who attend. Horizon Honors High School helps decorate diaper cakes.”
Diaper cakes are fanciful creations made from disposable diapers fashioned to resemble fancy cake shapes and decorated with toys or other baby items. Most are multi-tiered.
Those gently-used clothing items collected are washed and sorted by long-time Kiwanis Club member Linda Jochim and her team of volunteers.
“It’s touching what beautiful clothing, furniture and toys are donated,” said Ramsay, a 26-year Ahwatukee resident . “You can feel the love in each and every item.”
Following lunch – this year pork sandwiches and cole slaw will be provided by Texas Roadhouse – the mothers-to-be, young mothers and fathers can ‘shop’ for artfully displayed items.
“The mothers and sometimes fathers are given bags to shop the used clothing. Each is encouraged to take as much clothing as needed – to not just think of the early months, but to prepare for how quickly the child will grow,” said Ramsay.
In years past, donations have included wooden rocking horses and other new toys for infants and toddlers, as well as newly-purchased clothing and blankets – donated by some anonymously given and some who have memories to share.
Pettyjohn recalled a memorable connection that followed the Kiwanis’ inaugural Community Baby Shower,
“I got a phone call from an older gentleman who said, ‘God bless you for what you are doing for these young moms. My mother was a baby when she had me and we didn’t have anything but love when I was growing up. She could have used someone like you to help her then.’ I’ll never forget that call,” said Pettyjohn.
Since that first Community Baby Shower, the number of young women helped has grown steadily.
“In 2015, we helped 60 new moms, in 2016 it was 73 new moms and one new dad,” recalled Pettyjohn. “This year we expect to once again host more than 70.”
Ramsay credited the dedication of Kiwanis Club members, the help from local high school Key Clubs, and singled out Jochim, Pettyjohn and her daughter for additional kudos.
“This event truly takes a community. Without their unbelievable support, we’d never be able to accomplish everything we do. There are so many things that touch my heart including how grateful the mothers are,” she said.
“And without Andi (Pettyjohn) and her daughter Stacy (Rasmussen), this event would never reach the numbers of unwed mothers and fathers that we do. They are the heart and soul of this event,” Ramsay continued, adding:
Linda Jochim is another one of our outstanding Kiwanis members. She’s the first to volunteer and the last to go home when the job is finished.”
Any leftover items are put to good use, donated to Compadre’s TAPP, Maggie’s Place, Sophia’s House and other area nonprofits serving pregnant teens and women.
Foster parents parenting babies also benefit from donations.
Community volunteers are still being sought for the Sorting Day, Sept. 21; and additional cupcakes and other sweet treats with a shower theme are requested. The desserts, along with any gift cards, can be dropped off at the Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis, 4700 Warner Road.
Ramsay said with enough advance notice, arrangements can be made to pick up desserts for the event.
And like any baby shower, there’s even a gift registry at Target. Simply put in Kiwanis as first name and Ahwatukee as last name to see items needed.