United Way helps furnish items for newborns

Editor’s Note: This is the next in a series of articles about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

PARKERSBURG – Families and single mothers with a newborn infant can receive help getting baby cribs and other items through the Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the Gabriel Project of West Virginia.

In its second year as a member agency of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley, the chapter receives $6,000 for the the purchase of baby cribs and mattresses for newborns.

Chapter Coordinator Paula Schuchts said the nonprofit organization serves families and single mothers struggling with the financial needs of a newborn. The project is a means to provide items, including safe cribs, secure car seats, formula, clothing and hygiene items at a low cost to clients. It is aimed at families or mothers with children up to 2 years old.

There is no financial criteria for participating in the program, Schuchts said. There is a nominal fee of $25 for the crib and mattress.

The Gabriel Project also charges $10 for car seats, but if the recipient goes to the Parkersburg Police Department and gets instructions on proper usage, the fee is returned, she said.

There is no charge for clothing, formula and other items, Schuchts said. The Mid-Ohio Valley chapter covers Wood, Tyler, Pleasants, Ritchie, Wirt, Jackson and Roane counties.

“There’s no criteria (for help),” she said. “(People) don’t have to tell us what kind of money (they) make.”

The organization’s goal is to provide emotional as well as monetary support to families who might “fall through the cracks” of other programs, she said.

This is the second year the local chapter has been part of the United Way and it is off to a strong start, Schuchts said. She has increased the number of cribs distributed each month because of United Way’s support from five to seven, depending on the costs to the project. There is a waiting list for the cribs, she said.

Schuchts said the support of the United Way for the crib program is important.

“To me, it is so important to have those children in a crib and there are so many out there who need them… I think it’s such an important part of their growth process, to be in their own crib, their own bed,” she said.

Parkersburg resident Corey Halfhill said she was referred to the Gabriel Project last year by a friend. She already had a crib for the new baby, but the program was able to provide her with a new car seat, along with supplies like clothing, diapers and wipes. She received the new car seat to replace her expired one for $10 and was also able to get the money back after undergoing the training session at the Parkersburg Police Department.

Halfhill and her husband are both working now and haven’t required any more assistance from the Gabriel Project, but said the assistance provided by the program was a great help for them when they needed it. She would recommend it to anyone needing assistance or to someone looking for some way to help out in the community.

“I definitely think it’s a great thing for people in poverty,” she said.

The Gabriel Project of West Virginia was started by a group of women in Wheeling. The women expanded their efforts by launching the Gabriel Project in 1996 and the following year it was incorporated as a nonprofit organization. The state office was relocated from Wheeling to Charleston in 2010 when more counties, including the Mid-Ohio Valley chapter were added.

Volunteers interested in helping with the local initiative can contact Schuchts at 304-424-3457, extension 105 or go to the office at 521 Market St., No. 9.

Schuchts said the Gabriel Project receives much support from the community, especially through the local churches. While it has a strong Catholic base, the program is ecumenical and is always looking for more churches interested in helping and supporting the program.

“We try to hook clients up with different churches, so the church can help them not only get the items they need but provide a support system for the mother, somewhere she knows she can call to get some support and comfort,” she said.

Looking ahead, Schuchts said she is working to develop a new post-partum depression program. The Gabriel Project will work with a local psychologist to provide information about post-partum depression for new clients, including its signs and when and where professional help is available. It will not be a diagnostic program, just providing general information and raising awareness, she said.