For Foothills parents facing hardship, an Okotoks organization is working to make sure their baby’s first Christmas is a good one.
The It Takes a Village Okotoks Community Foundation is providing essential items to families in need with its Baby’s First Christmas program.
“If they are in a challenging time and they need some support, they can sign up for the program and we provide them with items that they need this holiday season,” said Rachel Swendseid, the organization’s president and co-founder.
It’s a referral-based program for families with newborn and infants up to one year of age. They can receive diapers, gift cards, warm clothing or grocery cards. She said they can request up to three items and it’s up to families to decide what they need most.
Anyone looking to donate can review wish lists online at www.takesavillageokotoks.com and choose to adopt a family.
The organization will mark its three-year anniversary in January 2018.
Located in the Okotoks Business Park at Fisher Crescent, it serves the whole Foothills area, including Okotoks, Black Diamond, Turner Valley, High River, the MD of Foothills, as well as Eden Valley.
It supports parents of children age 0 to 12 months and will extend help for toddlers in some cases.
“We work to help support families with young children, so we just want to ensure that when they are raising their babies or young children that if they are struggling or going through a challenging time, the last thing that they have to worry about is getting diapers for their babies or winter clothes,” said Swendseid.
Baby boxes that contain items such as diapers, blankets, clothes and receiving blankets are available for the first year of a child’s life.
They also include seasonal items such as snowsuits in the winter or hats in the summer.
Families can ask for a baby box once and don’t require a referral from another agency, but can request diapers up to three times.
They can also accommodate special requests as needed, such as clothing if a baby is growing fast and they need a larger size than what was in the box.
The organization will also provide car seats and cribs on a referral basis only.
“That is a referral through an organization and that’s [based on]low-income criteria,” said Swendseid.
She said they can also help point their clients to other organizations that could help in other areas such as the Okotoks Food Bank or Healthy Family Resource Centre.
Swendseid said the organization is also working to connect families to other Foothills agencies and organizations that can help in other areas.
The group serves between 50 to 60 families a year, she said.
Reasons vary from single parents struggling to make ends meet, families that faced unexpected medical problems or single-income households where someone faces a layoff and EI payments are all that’s left to make ends meet.
Parents looking for help can contact It Takes a Village in person, by email or through Facebook.
Swendseid said people can donate to It Takes a Village in a number of ways, such as giving monetary donations or items such as diapers or clothing.
People can also volunteer their time to help, she said.
For more information visit www.takesavillageokotoks.com or check out the group’s Facebook page.