Donors are key to keeping the shelves full for the CCS layette program
EVERETT - Gwenn Baer swings open the doors of a large closet, revealing stacks of neatly folded sleepers, blankets, bibs, hats and other items for needy newborns.
“My favorite thing are the socks,” she said, smiling as she holds up some pastel-hued pairs that soon will keep tiny toes warm.
Baer puts a lot of love and prayer into fashioning these donated supplies into layettes — starter kits of baby items — as a volunteer at Catholic Community Services’ Snohomish County Family Center in Everett. Each year, 250 to 300 low-income mothers benefit from the program, which relies almost completely on donations.
“The need is just tremendous,” said Debra Mazick, the center’s director of specialized case management services. Receiving a layette is especially meaningful for moms who “have literally nothing” for their newborns, Mazick said.
Each layette bag typically includes diapers, wipes, a bottle, receiving blankets, T-shirts, socks, “sleep and play” clothing and what Baer calls a “going visiting outfit.” When they’re available, Baer includes a sweater, a sleeper and a coat. She tops off each bag with a crocheted blanket and a rattle.
A toy and a tidy bow top off each layette bag that Gwenn Baer makes. The bags are decorated by students at St. Mary Magdalen School in Everett, and donors provide all the items to get a baby started off right. Photo: Stephen Brashear
“I’m basically at the mercy of everybody that donates to me,” Baer said. “If I run out of something, I just say, ‘OK God, I’m out of bottles, I don’t know how I’m going to get these.’ I always end up getting what I need,” she said. “It’s uncanny.”
Baer has been making the layettes for more than 10 years, taking over the project’s coordination from a friend. “I am just the hands the put it all together,” she said, quick to point out that it’s all made possible by other volunteers and donors — ages 5 to 95.
Donations of new, handmade and gently used clothing come largely from people at her parish, St. Mary Magdalen in Everett, as well as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Bothell and Holy Rosary Parish in Edmonds.
The preschool and kindergarten students at St. Mary Magdalen School decorate the handled shopping bags that CCS provides for the layettes, while the parish’s Giving Hands group knits and crochets baby items. Other volunteers make receiving blankets, washcloths and burp cloths. “People are very generous with their talents this way,” Baer said.
She usually stops by the family center once a week, making 10 to 12 layettes each time for moms she never meets.
“When I first started doing it, I was really thinking I was helping the mothers and the babies,” Baer said. “Now that I’ve been doing it for all these years, it’s like each layette is a gift to Christ himself. It’s almost like saying, ‘Thank you, Christ, for … this new life.’ ”
Help needy newborns
Bibs, bottles and socks are especially needed now for the CCS layette program. Also accepted are new and gently used baby clothes (up to size 12 months), blankets and other items for newborns. Gift cards are also welcome.
For more information, contact Debra Mazick at 425-374-6358 or send donations to: CCS Snohomish County Family Center, 1918 Everett Ave., Everett, WA 98201, Attn: Debra Mazick/layette program.
Learn how making layettes, and her strong faith, helped sustain Gwenn Baer during her husband’s cancer crisis in this story, which appears in the January/February 2014 issue of NORTHWEST CATHOLIC magazine.