Parishioners around the archdiocese have been busy filling up baby bottles with their spare change, raising money to benefit pregnant women in their communities.
In Western Grays Harbor County, more than $4,000 was raised by St. Mary in Aberdeen, Our Lady of Good Help in Hoquiam, St. Jerome in Ocean Shores, St. Paul in Westport and Our Lady of the Olympics in Quinault.
“This was a great blessing,” said Dede Higginbotham, a member of Our Lady of Good Help. “It’s just the change out of your pockets, but it adds up.”
The money went to benefit Hearts and Hands Pregnancy Center of Grays Harbor, operated by local faith communities with the help of volunteers like Higginbotham. At the center, women can get information about local resources and borrow baby equipment and clothes.
An additional $600 for the center was donated by St. Joseph Parish in Elma and its mission, St. John in Montesano. The baby bottle collection was the inaugural project of a new Prepares group started by St. Joseph parishioners Mike and Mary Kimbrel. The couple has supported the Hearts and Hands center since the 1990s, Mike Kimbrel said.
“There are many people who benefit from [the center’s] presence,” he said. “It’s honorable to do simple stuff, like give out diapers, and maybe it makes a difference when it comes to preventing abortion.”
Mother’s Day to Father’s Day
Known as “Baby Bottle Boomerang,” each collection starts on Mother’s Day, when churches distribute empty baby bottles. As filled bottles are returned, the money is set aside, and the bottles “boomerang” back out for other parishioners to take and fill. The collection culminates on Father’s Day.
More than 200 baby bottles were distributed at five Skagit Valley parishes on Mother’s Day this year. Parishioners filled the bottles with coins and cash and returned them by Father’s Day to support local pregnant women in need. Photo: Kathy Kerkvliet
Penny Bergstrom, who coordinated the collections at Skagit Valley parishes in 2017, said she likes the idea of the collection spanning the two holidays honoring parents.
“It unites the family,” said Bergstrom, a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Mount Vernon. “Oftentimes the father is forgotten. Often, he’s not a part of the equation when we talk about this issue.”
The Skagit Valley parishes — Immaculate Conception, Sacred Heart in La Conner, St. Charles in Burlington, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Sedro-Woolley and St. Catherine Mission in Concrete — collected more than $5,000 in 2017. This year’s effort totaled more than $2,000, not counting all the coins.
“I really like it because it’s a positive fundraiser,” said Katy Janicki, a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary who coordinated the Skagit Valley collections this year. “It’s going to moms and babies, so everyone can get behind it.”
At St. Augustine Parish in Oak Harbor, the parish quickly filled the 50 bottles it was given by Pregnancy Care Clinic on north Whidbey Island. “Next year, I’m going to ask for 100,” said Peggy Smith, pastoral associate for adult education and sacramental preparation. “This parish is very supportive.”
Building a culture of life
The bottle collections not only build community in parishes, but also strengthen a culture of life in the larger community.
In Skagit County, part of this year’s collections will support a new home for pregnant women. “It’s brought a lot of different people together to support life,” said Janicki, who has been involved in planning the home. “It’s been great to see.”
Another beneficiary is the Students for Life group at Sedro-Woolley High School. Last year, the group used the money to help three classmates buy baby items.
“The girls were really thankful,” said Katie Lodjic, Northwest regional coordinator of Students for Life of America, who accompanied the teens on the shopping excursion. “These were the only things they had for their baby.”
“When students see there is support when they have an unplanned pregnancy, it creates a culture of life at their school,” Lodjic added.
Bergstrom said it is important to support not only the girls who are choosing life, but also the students who are speaking up for life.
“We all feel our future is with the younger generation,” she said.