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Church basement transformed into an emergency pantry

Bethany Andrews holds her son, Paxton
Bethany Andrews, a volunteer at A Small Hand baby pantry, holds her son, Paxton, 9 months, as she browses through a line of baby clothes inside its location in the basement of Edinburg Christian Church. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Ann McBroom stacks a line of disposable diapers
Ann McBroom, director of A Small Hand, stacks a line of disposable diapers at the store. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Sally Voth - svoth@nvdaily.com

EDINBURG - An additional source of help is now available for Shenandoah County's youngest residents in need.

A Small Hand, described as an "emergency pantry" serving infants from birth to 24 months, opened in May in the basement of Edinburg Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 210 Center St., Edinburg.

There, parents can receive a week's worth of free formula, baby food, food for toddlers, diapers and clothes.

A Small Hand's director, Ann McBroom, said the idea blossomed out of the Really Really Free Market, which the Christian Church coordinated last summer, and which offered free food, entertainment and a chance for people to pick up donated items for free.

"Our church got so galvanized about that, that we sort of felt that we wanted to do something that had more longevity," McBroom said. "We sort of learned that there was a lot of goodwill in the community."

Recipients of the baby goods must be enrolled in either the Women, Infants and Children program or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or have a referral from either the Shenandoah County Department of Social Services or the Health Department, and must have proof that they live in Shenandoah County.

Also, they should bring their baby to the pantry and are asked to call in advance in case they wish to request a certain formula brand.

Once there, they will find a basement room painted a bright, cheery yellow with racks of clothes at either end. Plastic baskets hold socks and other items. Sippy cups, spoons, bottles, shoes and other items sit on shelves.

A table is set up with new items, including wipes, blankets -- some of which are handmade -- crocheted hats, bottle brushes, baby bath wash and other baby supplies.

By the end of June, 19 infants had been helped by the pantry, McBroom said.

"We're trying to spread the word," she said.

Besides letting needy families know the pantry is available, she and other volunteers are trying to reach out to businesses, local organizations and individuals who can donate supplies or money. Area thrift and consignment stores have also provided some help, McBroom said. Volunteers are needed, too.

"We have people trolling the yard sales," she said. "We are already thinking about winter months, so if moms happen to have closets that are clogged with winter clothing, we would be happy to [accept] it."

For now, visits are limited to once a year.

"We would love to be available more often ... but we just don't have the money at the moment to do that," McBroom said. "We also want to move to [helping children up to] 48 months. But, we will always help in an emergency.

"I think most people don't realize that WIC and SNAP [are] just supplemental. I always thought they provided everything that the kids needed. There's a gap every month."

A couple of area churches have helped the pantry by having a baby "shower." That's how volunteer Bethany Andrews, a public health nurse and now a stay-at-home mom, found out about it.

"I contacted Ann because it just sounded like a wonderful organization," she said. "She really treats everybody that comes in with dignity and respect."

The pantry is open 9 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. every Thursday. For more information, call McBroom at 933-6313. Information is also available at http://helpingshenandoahcountyinfantsinneed.blogspot.com/.


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