CUMBERLAND — Patty Glaze’s hand floats along a rack of tiny toddler girl dresses. Among the pinks, oranges, reds and yellows, she stops.
“Just look at the pretty,” she says. “Everything is in good condition.”
For nearly 20 years, volunteers such as Glaze have operated the MOM House next door to Heather Hills Baptist Church.
Inside the house, which years ago was a parsonage for an associate pastor, rooms are lined with baby and toddler clothes, sorted by size.
Volunteers ask to see a photo ID for those who come for the clothes and supplies, such as diapers, but they don’t limit the help they offer by residency or inquire into one’s finances. After checking in, visitors go with volunteers on a guided shopping-style experience in the rooms of the house, making stops according to the ages and genders of their children and choosing a certain number of items from among the clothes, swimsuits, shoes and other pieces available.
Volunteers invited representatives from local agencies to an open house Tuesday afternoon, hoping to remind caseworkers, nurses and others of a resource where they can refer clients. They sent out 30 letters, and though they did not receive 30 visitors, they imagine that even the letter they sent served an informative purpose for recipients, whether they came or not.
The volunteers also hoped to remind community members in need, or people with extra children’s gear they’d like to donate, that the MOM House remains open.
“We are looking to expand our reach,” said Jane Daw, one of the leaders. “COVID really hit us hard.” Though the house closed for a short time amid COVID, it then transitioned to scheduled appointments with visitors to limit the number of people in the house at one time and promote social distancing. But sometimes the scheduled visitor didn’t show.
The stream of visitors coming for items, and people dropping off donations, slowed. That’s left volunteers wondering if some assume the house closed. Meanwhile, the supply of blankets and 6T clothes has dwindled — “The fives and sixes go like wildfire,” said volunteer Sarah Jackson — and racks filled with smaller sizes of colorful onesies, shirts and shorts hang ready for a new child to wear them. The MOM House volunteers believe someone out there could use those.
“There’s a lot of foster parents that really need us,” Daw said.
Judy Endsley, who recently took the baton as the next director of the MOM House, said sometimes Healthy Families caseworkers bring clients in. The house is also listed on the Indiana 211 site (https://in211.communityos.org/) that seeks to connect people with the resources they need. Over the years they’ve seen people of various nationalities, including from Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti, stop by — having come from the area close by and from as far away as Greenwood, Speedway, and other communities in Indianapolis and surrounding counties. Endsley said the MOM House doesn’t have a geographic boundary on whom it will help.
The volunteers staffing Tuesday’s open house are typically the people who greet people during the house’s open hours on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings. They say there are other, more behind-the-scenes volunteers who wash clothes, wrap bulk-bought diapers into smaller bundles, and check for safety recalls on donated toys and equipment.
“They’re all washed and clean,” says Glaze, standing next to a rack of girls’ dresses. “The work that’s really done is what’s done to put these things up.”
That work includes making sure zippers zip, all the buttons are there, and garments that could use a light pressing to look their best get it.
“Everything is as top-drawer as we can make it,” Endsley said.
From her station in a room of boys’ clothes, Jackson said the MOM House has been a meaningful endeavor for her retirement years.
“It’s a way to give back. The good Lord has given me a lot of great things,” she said. “And I enjoy it.”