Diapers were piled high June 2 at the Longboat Island Chapel. As if you were walking into a friend’s shower, everything spelled “baby,” from oversized blocks to white and gold “Oh, baby” tablecloths.
The chapel’s charitable outreach program supports 20 different organizations. “The outreach community is a big community and are very active,” said Peggy Lammers, the hair of the scholarship committee. “They review the programs carefully and request annual reports to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
This month, the outreach group collected baby items for the Cyesis Teen Parent Program at Riverview High School. The donations will be delivered to its day care on the Riverview campus.
“We have supported Cyesis for a number of years,” co-chair Anne Summers said. “In addition to drives, we’ve had volunteers go and watch babies while their parents go to school.” Unfortunately, the snuggling and rocking stopped with the pandemic when Cyesis was closed along with all the other area schools.
Cyesis accepts volunteers through the Lullaby League. All volunteers must be vetted and trained and commit to two hours a week. They are then assigned a classroom where they’ll see the same children each week. The program found that the warmth and extra cuddles from volunteers has a positive impact on the children.
“I like programs that enable people to be successful, so the school providing a day care to unwed mothers enables them to take care of themselves and their babies,” Muriel Klosterman said.
According to a 2018 study by Child Trends, of girls who gave birth as teens, 53% received a high school diploma; of those who did not, 90% received a diploma.
“In order for them to finish their high school degrees, they have to have something to do with their children. A lot of times, they don’t have a lot of money,” Summers said.
The Cyesis program started in 1978 and offers pregnant and teen parents free services to ensure they graduate on time with a diploma. Teen fathers are also eligible for the program, which offers parenting classes, Lamaze, child care through the summer months and mental health services.
Eligible students are matched with a peer mentor, another pregnant or parenting teen already enrolled in the program. They’re also assigned a social worker, who can refer them to other community resources as needed.
Students are able to choose traditional or online courses. If they choose to continue in person, bus transportation is provided. The bus is specially equipped with car seats for safety. But the goal exceeds simply receiving a high school diploma. The teen parents are offered education and career counseling, so they have a plan to support themselves and their children after high school too.
The outreach group met in Shook Fellowship Hall for a potluck social hour. Everyone brought an appetizer, beverages and baby supplies. Just more than 20 church members attended and brought a mountain of blankets, books, wipes and toys with them.
Bigger items included a crib, a stroller and a high chair. They also collected more than $120 from members who were unable to attend the drive. You name it, it was in the pile — plus a little extra. “We try to put something in for the mothers, like nail polish,” Summers said.
Summers has been co-chair of the chapel’s outreach program for about eight years. At the start, most of the contributions were financial and volunteer work. About six years ago, the program started hosting drives.
The chapel’s drives support a different charity each month. The main goal for this month’s drive was diapers. “You can’t go wrong with diapers, and they told us that is the big need,” Lammers said. The group delivered: More than a dozen packages of diapers are boxed up and ready to stock the Cyesis day care by the end of the month.
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