Expecting a Baby? Where to Turn for Help
While free diapers are hard to come by in Memphis, there are agencies offering free goods and services to moms in need
Helping teens are (l to r) Malisa Gillum, ex. dir. Hickory Hill Community Redevelopment Corp., Connie Booker, project manager, Lydia Walker, success coach, and Gwen Brown, director of the Teen Pregnancy and Parenting Program. Below, the baby store at Cathedral of Faith.
One of the most expensive items during baby’s first year are diapers. If you are strapped financially, weekly diaper buys can take a big bite out of your budget. Diaper networks are common in other cities but not so in Memphis. While the need is significant here, calls to social service agencies reveal very few low cost or free resources for poor families.
Several programs provide baby items and education to disadvantaged teen moms in hopes of reducing Memphis’ infant mortality rate, which is good. But there needs to be more.
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Baby Feat Store • 2285 Frayser Boulevard, 859-6832
Store serves women in need ages 20 and up. They provide diapers, wipes, baby gear, and clothing. Referral. • Accept donations of baby items.
Birthright of Memphis • 115 Alexander St., 327-8109
Birthright offers maternity clothes, newborn items, diapers, and baby clothes to expectant moms. Bring a referral letter from a doctor, case worker, or pastor indicating need and due date. They also offer PLANT Parenting program; classes start September 24. For first-time moms who are scared or lack support. The class meets from 10 a.m. to noon weekly, and teaches life skills, time-management, labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and more. • Accept donations of maternity clothes (particularly school uniforms) & baby clothes.
National Diaper Bank Network
• Diaperbanknetwork.org National website listing organizations that give away free diapers and baby items. Also offers information on how to start a diaper bank and host a diaper drive.
Operation Smart Child
• Neighborhood Christian Centers, 223 Scott St. & 785 Jackson Ave., 881-6013
Director Melinda Harper says Operation Smart Child aims to teach parents the importance of Touch, Talk, Read, & Play activities during baby’s early years. Moms of all ages can attend parenting classes and accumulate points for purchasing diapers, strollers, play yards, clothes, and more.
“We aren’t just targeting teens, these can be older moms, too,” says Harper. “We want parents to understand the importance of enhancing their baby’s brain development.”
“Now I Am,” a second phase of the TTRP program, brings moms together on a monthly basis to do fun, brain-based activities that can also be practiced at home.
“We want parents to be trained to be their child’s first teacher,” says Harper. Call for details. • Donations welcome.
Operation: Swaddling Clothes
• St. John’s Methodist Church, 1207 Peabody Ave., 726-4104
This program provides one-to-two weeks of free diapers and other baby items. Started by a mom as a diaper network in 2009, it serves MIFA-screened participants who also qualify for the church’s food pantry.
“There’s a huge need,” says organizer Jaime Winton, “one we can’t come close to touching.” • Donations welcome.
Shelby County Health Department
Car seats available ($10 w/installation instruction) to TennCare recipients.
Teen Pregnancy and Parenting Support
• Shelby County’s Office of Early Childhood and Youth, partner organizations AGAPE, Cathedral of Faith Community Church, Union Grove Baptist & others, 222-3990
The Teen Pregnancy and Parenting Support (TPPS) program assists teen moms ages 13 to 19. Girls attend parenting classes to earn points that can be used for baby clothes, diapers, and gear. Referrals are by a social worker, MIFA, a guidance counselor, or pastor.
TPPS social workers talk to public school guidance counselors about the program. Teens receive prenatal care, attend parenting classes, have success coaching from social workers, and earn points they can use at one of five baby stores run by the program.
“We want moms to get prenatal care, to have the babies receive care, and encourage the girls to stay in school,” says Program Director Gwen Brown. “This is not just a giveaway program. We want these girls to really truly improve themselves and become good parents.” Brown says the program was established several years ago by a $4.3 million federal grant which ends in 2014. They serve approximately 20 to 30 girls a month.
Pastor Charles Caswell of Union Grove Baptist Church is a partner in the program, and says he’s seen great success among teens he’s worked with. Several have completed GEDs and mentoring has led some to enroll in college. “In our community, there are so many babies raising babies,” Caswell notes.
“Giving them positive feedback helps set them up for success.”