By Katie Demeria
Over the past three years, local hospitals have teamed up with various community organizations to support families in need.
Winchester Medical Center, Warren Memorial Hospital and Shenandoah Memorial Hospital will start collecting for the third annual Community Baby Shower on June 1.
Baby shower donations will help local agencies raise resources for the families they serve. Those agencies include Healthy Families, Shenandoah County Pregnancy Center, Front Royal Pregnancy Center, C-CAP, and the Laurel Center, among others.
Sara Schoonover-Martin, executive director of Healthy Families of Northern Shenandoah Valley, said even small, basic donations can make a huge difference to families.
"The nonprofit agencies that the baby shower is helping -- we have limited funds to provide some of the basic essentials that the families need, like shampoo, body wash, or safety plugs.
"By people donating these items, we are able to turn around and get them right back out into the community."
Misty Warren, Valley Health's Women's & Children's Services coordinator, said the program advertises for the items that the agencies most need. This year, they are asking for unwrapped items like clothing, diapers, wipes and bottles to help children from birth to 2 years old,
"Diapers are a huge need," Warren said. "They are so expensive, and families go through a lot of them regularly."
Marketing Manager Vanessa McAllister has been part of the baby showers since they began. During its first year, she said their donations filled nine palette loads.
"We have all these local organizations that serve so many families in the area and we wanted to find a way that we could help them coordinate something like this," McAllister said. "We thought we could reach out to the local community to help them serve those families."
According to Schoonover-Martin, even the most basic items like toilet paper or paper towels are needed. She said when Healthy Families receives those kinds of donations, they make a big difference and the families keep coming back for more.
"I know the economy is starting to improve, but there was a big downward spiral," she said. "Since 2010, we started to see a real shift, and I think people are really just starting to see that there is still a tremendous need."
This year, the Community Baby Showers have enlisted the help of other organizations such as the Girl Scouts, the Ruritan Club, Lake Frederick Community Residents and Trinity Church.
"The agencies are just thrilled to get the items," Warren said. "They have a lot of needs, and this provides at least a little bit for them."
Donations can be made in the main lobbies of Warren and Shenandoah Memorial Hospitals, and in Winchester Medical Center's South Tower Lobby.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org