For the fourth consecutive year, the Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club and 50 adult and teenage volunteers showed a group of single teen moms, teen moms-to-be and foster parents with young babies placed with them that they are not alone.
Kiwanians held their annual Community Baby Shower last month, aided by untold numbers of people who rallied to Kiwanis member and shower organizer Andy Pettyjohn’s plea for new and gently used baby items, which they dropped off at collection boxes over six weeks at various Ahwatukee businesses and nonprofits.
Businesses themselves heeded the club’s request for help as well, such as Darin Fisher of Vision Community Management, who donated five new car seats.
Invited guests included five foster group homes with parenting teens, students enrolled at Compadre High School’s Teen Parenting Program, teens who had aged out of foster care but are still under the direction of state case workers, pregnant women living in homeless shelters and foster families who have young children placed in their homes.
“Our ‘sorting day’ was held at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center the week prior where volunteers helped sort the donations so we knew that the items we were giving away were clean, unstained and appropriate for our moms,” Pettyjohn said.
Gift baskets were prepared with new items for the babies.
Pettyjohn and other Kiwanis Club members also made shopping lists of new baby items and bought what they needed to ensure that each basket had at least two baby outfits, blankets, bibs, bottles or sippy cups, burp cloths, hat, toy, stuffed animal and a book.
Miscellaneous items like lotions, spoons and pacifiers were added, depending on the age of the baby.
The Ahwatukee Board of Management donated the use of the Ahwatukee Event Center for the shower.
“We were able to begin set up Friday afternoon and complete set up early Saturday morning with the help of many early riser volunteers,” Pettyjohn said. “When our guests arrived, they were presented with the gift basket and served lunch donated by Tempe Texas Roadhouse Restaurant along with lots of goodies donated by numerous community members.”
The young women then “shopped” for clothing and other things for their babies, going through a variety of items that were on tables at the center.
“Each person was very grateful and amazed at the gifts they were allowed to have,” Pettyjohn said.
“Volunteers helped the girls ‘shop’ and encouraged them to also get larger sizes of clothing so they would be prepared for the fast growth of their baby,” Pettyjohn said.
Each foster girl left with a new umbrella stroller and a backpack diaper bag filled with baby essentials.
“We had prepared gifts for 98 young women and had a total of 50 were able to attend the shower with staff members, mentors and family,” Pettyjohn said. “The remaining gift baskets are being delivered to Compadre, homeless shelters and the Department of Child Services for delivery to those women who did not have transportation to attend.”
Leftover boxes of clothing and other items were donated to the Kyrene Family Resource Center, Compadre and Jose’s Closet to benefit others in need.
This is one of several activities the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee stages annually to help older foster children who ended up living in group homes because state officials can’t find families that want to take them in.
The club also has a Thanksgiving dinner and gathers items to make Christmas gifts that are dropped off at the group homes.
Pettyjohn said she was moved by the generosity of the 50 adult and teen volunteers who helped with sorting, setting up, decorating, child care and clean up for the shower.
And she was even more moved by the response to her plea for donations.
“The outpouring of donations and help from community members is very heart warming,” she said. “We are blessed to live in such a caring community.”
Added Andrea Carmody, Compadre’s Teen Parenting Program: “I spoke to a lot of the girls this morning, and they were so excited with everything they were able to get for their babies. I heard stories of whole families attending the event and students’ moms meeting for the first time. The girls had a wonderful experience.”