Wedding Dress Donation For Babies

Wedding Dress Donation For Babies
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Wedding Dress Donation For Babies

On a quiet street in a senior living development in northeast Fresno, three women in their 80s are hard at work making burial gowns for the youngest and smallest among us. The dresses are given to Hinds Hospice, which distributes them to grieving families for children who are born premature or medically fragile and die shortly after birth, or for those who had a stillborn baby. A lot of love is poured into these delicate creations – by the volunteer seamstresses and those donating the fabric. The burial gowns were once wedding, bridesmaid and quinceañera dresses. Merry Derrick, Peggie Morgan and Antonia Rhodes, along with Rhodes’ daughter, Becky Rowe, have made more than 200 of these small dresses since they started their work a few months ago. Rowe gets chills collecting donated wedding dresses. “Tears would stream down my face,” Rowe says. “I got so emotional every time – and I still do, every time. I just felt God was calling me to do something good for someone.” We hope it provides them some comfort and relief from the burden they carry, having to bury their child.Cindi BoukidisInspired by a story about women in Texas who make infant burial gowns, the Fresno group started doing the same without knowing who would receive their gifts. Then Morgan learned women with the Athena Philoptochos Society of St. George Greek Orthodox Church were also making these dresses and donating them to the Hinds Hospice Angel Babies program, which serves families in Fresno, Madera and Merced counties. The women joined forces and, collectively, have made more than 425 infant gowns for the program. They also make cloth diapers and envelopes that can be used to hold hospital paperwork and death certificates, and knit baby blankets and caps – many just the size of a lemon or egg. Rhodes knit 250 of these hats in three weeks. Every piece is a unique and beautiful creation. Derrick, a retired potter, likes to paint things like teddy bears and animals on many of the dresses. Morgan recently made a boy’s gown that has a vest adorned with tiny military medals. The first delivery to Hinds Hospice was in March. Angel Babies helps around 35 families a month, says its program director Kathy Cromwell. Since Angel Babies began in 2001, it’s helped grieving families cope with the deaths of around 3,800 babies. I was amazed at the number of babies in Fresno County that die every month. … We’re having trouble keeping up.Cindi BoukidisHinds Hospice stresses the importance of providing “dignity at the end of life,” Cromwell says, and the handmade burial dresses help with that. It’s important that the babies “get to wear something that’s so beautiful, because they are so beautiful.” Elaine Sotiropulos with St. George also got the idea for making gowns from the story of the Texas volunteers. “A wedding gown is such a symbol of beauty, and to take something that is used in one way and is beautiful and to repurpose it into another beautiful use … the giver receives a lot of that warmth and love,” Sotiropulos says. “It’s different than just buying fabric.” Amber Sweilem, 23, of Fresno donated her dress shortly after her July wedding. “Since I was a little girl I dreamed of my wedding – especially my wedding dress. But after my wedding, I wasn’t going to need it anymore. I know a lot of people have them dry-cleaned and put in boxes and hung on walls, but that just never seemed like an option to me. I’d rather something that meant so much to me go toward a good cause, and I couldn’t think of anything better.” Typically, around 15 burial gowns can be made from each wedding dress, but one recently yielded enough material to make 35. Morgan received one wedding dress that belonged to a woman who was married in 1945. She died recently in a center for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Her daughter found the dress while cleaning out her mother’s apartment. “This is made just from lace, most of it disintegrated, but I was able to salvage this,” Morgan says, holding up a burial gown at Rhodes’ home. She shared a photo of the dress with the daughter. “She wept and wept and wept. Her mother had 10 miscarriages before she was born and she said, ‘One of my siblings could have worn this.’ So, that’s why I do it.” Some of the moms have now donated their wedding dress, which is a really beautiful thing – full circle – because they know how meaningful the (baby burial) dress was for them.Kathy CromwellThe gowns also save grieving families from shopping for a dead child, says Cindi Boukidis with St. George. “It’s not easy to bury a child, and the last thing you want to do is go shopping for something when you can’t find something this size – and you don’t want some doll dress.” The Angel Babies gowns are special because they are “lovingly and prayerfully made,” Boukidis says. Sweilem agrees. “Being a newlywed, having children someday is something me and my husband both look forward to, and I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be one of those mothers who had lost their child. … I just hope it brings them a sense of closure. “Nothing of course can ever fill that hole that I’m sure they feel from losing a child, but at least knowing that their baby was clothed in something that was made out of love … maybe it would bring them some sense of relief.” Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge How to help Dresses can be dropped off at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 2219 N. Orchard St., Fresno. Volunteers make burial gowns, caps, blankets, and cloth diapers and envelopes at their homes and during work parties at the church. The next group workday will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Jan. 25. Volunteers normally gather the last Monday of each month. Around 75 people have helped with this project. Those with questions can call the church at 559-233-0397 or email sggoc@comcast.net. Angel Babies of Hinds Hospice People in the central San Joaquin Valley who have experienced the death of a baby in infancy or pregnancy can get emotional support from the Angel Babies of Hinds Hospice program by calling 559-248-8579, emailing angelbabies@hindshospice.org or stopping by the office at 2490 W. Shaw Ave., Fresno.
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Wedding Dress Donation For Babies

share tweet pin email Today Gender-specific gowns are made so parents have several options to consider when choosing an Angel Gown for their baby. Lisa Grubbs was heartbroken to see families who suffered the loss of an infant in the hospital picking through bins of donated clothing to find something for their child to wear in their final moments together. Sometimes the clothing they found was too big; other times, inappropriate for a time of grief. “It struck me as incredibly wrong that that was what they were having to do at one of the darkest hours of their lives,” said Grubbs, the founder of NICU Helping Hands, an organization that provides support for families with premature babies. Starting with her own wedding gown last summer, her Fort Worth, Texas-based nonprofit group began a program of lovingly transforming wedding gowns into “angel” gowns, garments that are individually boxed with a poem and keepsake angel, and given to families for their babies to wear for final pictures or burial. “These babies are not getting a hand-me-down or something donated,” Grubbs said. “It’s a unique, one-of-a-kind piece of clothing.” Grubbs, 44, says it is comforting for parents to be able to dress their babies in something special and handmade, a garment that had once represented the hope and happiness of a new marriage. “We’re talking about the last time that they hold their baby and what they’re giving their baby,” said Grubbs, a mother of four. “It’s those last personal acts as a parent, those last things you do for your child.” Each wedding gown yields about 12 to 20 angel gowns. After a Facebook post seeking more bridal dresses last year, NICU Helping Hands received about 40 that a handful of volunteer seamstresses turned into angel gowns. They were donated to Baylor All Saints Medical Center, where Grubbs’ husband is a neonatologist, to distribute to families free of charge. Since a news story in late March, Grubbs’ effort has exploded, with an estimated 2,500 wedding gowns pouring in from around the country, and 300 more sewers offering their handiwork. With that, NICU Helping Hands decided to offer the angel gowns to hospitals around the country, and has already received requests from at least nine institutions. While other people offer angel gowns, Grubbs believes her group is the first to provide them nationally. NICU Helping Hands / Today Each Angel Gown is presented to the family in simple, white boxes and white tissue paper. In Texas, the gowns are created for boys and girls in sizes that range from fitting the tiniest preemies to full-term infants. They are for the babies who will not leave the hospital, infants who succumb to birth defects, complications from prematurity or are stillborn. Grubbs says the need for gowns is great. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 there were 24,572 infant deaths in the U.S., children who died before their first birthday from any cause. At Baylor, hospital staff members offer each family several gowns, allowing them to choose the right one for them. “They’re selecting the gown their child will be buried in,” Grubbs said. “We feel like that honors that child and honors that family’s loss.” Amy Vickers, a volunteer sewer in Fort Worth, hasn’t lost a child but has seen such losses up close when she worked as a neonatal intensive care unit nurse. She knows just how tiny those babies are, and years ago, remembers there was nothing more for the families to dress them in other than small wash rags or diapers. “I really like knowing that what I’m doing might fill a tiny little need that they have in this big ocean of sorrow,” said Vickers, who is 50 and has two children. “I know it doesn’t make it better, but it’s just one way that they know somebody cares that their baby was here.” Many of the donated wedding gowns come with notes attached to them, telling a story of the owner’s loss. Or people share their memories in person. “We had older women bringing their vintage gowns in saying ‘I had a baby that died that I never saw and I want to give my dress for a mother to bury her child in’,” Grubbs recalled. An older man retrieved his late wife’s gown from the attic, and said he knew she would have wanted it donated; the couple had a stillborn baby many years ago. “Many, many women who have donated gowns have lost a child, many of them had miscarriages as well,” Grubbs said. “It goes full circle,” she added. “It goes from this beginning and it ends with that life.” Want to help? For more information about NICU Helping Hands and their angel gown program, click here to go to their website.

Wedding Dress Donation For Babies

Wedding Dress Donation For Babies
Wedding Dress Donation For Babies
Wedding Dress Donation For Babies
Wedding Dress Donation For Babies
Wedding Dress Donation For Babies

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