Like many nonprofits, the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee has been battered by the pandemic.
Their major fundraiser – and one of the community’s signature annual celebrations – went up in smoke when organizers were forced to cancel the Easter Parade and Spring Fling Carnival.
“We had very little income from other sources and because of COVID-19, other smaller fundraising events were also cancelled that we had budgeted and planned for,” member Ani Pettyjohn said.
It got so bad that one of the club’s – and Pettyjohn’s – favorite events, the Community Baby Shower, “was on the chopping block,” she said.
But Pettyjohn said she, her daughter Stacy Rasmussen and several other Kiwanians agreed that this year, more than ever, “these young moms needed our help and it was our duty to find a safe and resourceful way to provide for these moms.”
The shower helps parents who are foster teens, who have aged out of foster care but are still under DCS guidance, students in Compadre High School’s Teen Parenting Program, residents at UMOM homeless shelter. It also came to the aid of a local mom who asked for help.
Knowing that they wouldn’t be able to enlist the large number of volunteers they have drafted in the past and couldn’t hold an in-person event, the club adapted to sponsor the baby shower for the sixth year.
“We didn’t know if the community would or could be as generous with donations as they had been in years past,” Pettyjohn said. “We quickly discovered the community was incredibly generous once again.”
The Kiwanians set up an Amazon Baby Registry so people didn’t need to physically go to a store to shop and donations could be delivered directly to a volunteer’s home.
Since stores were limiting the purchases of diapers and wipes, the club held a diaper-and-wipe drive at Tough Mudder Boot Camp in Gilbert.
With many businesses closed or restricting people who could come in, the club could only use four drop-off spots: Bartoli’s Dry Cleaning, Ahwatukee Swim & Tennis Center, Mountain View Lutheran Church and Nicolas Goode’s Edward Jones.
“Many volunteers had donations dropped off at their homes,” Pettyjohn said.
“Wonderful community volunteers washed and sorted all used clothing by size/gender,” she said. “Storage space was donated by Extra Space Storage on Desert Foothills Parkway where we were able to store larger non-clothing items and diapers/wipes.”
Under normal circumstances, all clothing would have been laid out on tables by several dozen volunteers who would sort and make up baskets for each mom.
Instead, Rasmussen used her home to lay out clothing, new and used on every available surface of her home.
With the help of some of her friends for several weekends, baskets were assembled, and the “shopping” of used clothing was selected for each mom. Normally, at the “shower” moms could “shop” for the used clothing.
“We did our best to select the gently used items for them taking into consideration their favorite colors, likes and dislikes,” Pettyjohn said.
Each mom received a basket of new items chosen for her child, including blankets, clothing, bottles/sippy cups, a toy, a book along with other age appropriate gifts we had available. There was a minimum of two bags of used clothing for each child, with some larger sizes for the child to grow into.
The volunteers had asked the moms ahead of time in addition to clothing sizes, what specific wants or needs they had. After all the baskets and bags were completed, they took items in the storage sheds into the Ahwatukee Event Center and chose larger items according to the mom’s wish lists, divided them by group home and agency and readied them for delivery.
Carmen Paiz and friends made up a “party pack” for each of the five foster group homes which consisted of decorations, games and treats.
Making treats was organized by Carrie Chipman with beautifully decorated cookies and other treats. A high school neighbor of Pettyjohn made up several packages of hygiene items to give to the moms.
The club ended up helping 91 new moms and dads and 110 children with clothing and other essentials.
“Thanks to a great donation from Vision Community Management and a substantial donation from the Jim Smith Foundation, we had money left over to possibly utilize on helping moms in crisis throughout the year,” Pettyjohn added.
The club has two other benefits for foster children this year, though the Thanksgiving dinner could be jeopardized by the pandemic.
To find out how you can help: ahwatukeekiwanis.org.