Poverty exists in areas you would not expect: Whether you are in Gig Harbor or on Bainbridge Island, there are families who can’t make ends meet. This is what Bob Maynard and Barbara Bandoli want you to know about your communities. The pair was writing grants for the Eastside Baby Corner (EBC), an organization that since 1990 has been helping feed, clothe and keep safe children across King County, when they decided the greater Gig Harbor area could use a branch specific to the West Sound. Bob and Barbara were at a benefit luncheon in the fall of 2014 in Issaquah when the speaker asked a question that would change their lives: “We know the EBC model works; so why are there not more Baby Corners in this world?”
“We were both compelled by the speaker’s words to form a branch of EBC to serve our community, which encompasses Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula, up to Hood Canal,” said Barbara.
For those unfamiliar with the Eastside Baby Corner, its work and messaging is very straightforward. Local nurse Karen Ridlon was concerned about the number of babies in her practice who did not have adequate food, clothing, bedding and other necessary supplies. Since the early ‘90s, the EBC has gone from gathering a few items for distribution to becoming one of the major distributors of children’s goods in greater Seattle. There is a diaper bank, clothing bank and food source that serves around 800 children each week. Seeing so many vulnerable children is what helped push Bob and Barbara into creating the West Sound chapter about two and a half years ago.
“Fundamentally it was the mission: EBC helps kids reach their full potential tomorrow by meeting basic needs today. And as a parent/grandparent, we know just how costly it is to give a child what they need,” said Bob.
Added Barbara, “We believe that kids need to be able to start life on a level playing field, no matter what their family circumstance. And we feel that the EBC way of making that happen—that is, by partnering with social service agencies to help their clients—is a unique and brilliant way to help solve the problem.”
As word continues to spread about the work the West Sound chapter of EBC does for the community, the number of individuals, families and businesses wanting to help is also increasing. Anytime a new non-profit agency comes into a community, it is a lot of work not only reaching the people who need help through networking, but finding volunteers dedicated to the cause and people willing to donate goods, money or time. Bob and Barbara have high praise for the Gig Harbor Kiwanis, which they say has been instrumental in helping with their outreach:
“The Gig Harbor Kiwanis Club is representative of the type of community support we envision going forward. This club has almost literally adopted EBC – West Sound in the year this branch has been open. They’ve given us cash to purchase items that kids need the most, and they sponsored our annual fundraising event. They furnish us with bikes and trikes which have been refurbished by the Women’s Correctional Center in Purdy, and they continue to supply us with batteries so the kids will get toys that work. They connect us to the community. A Kiwanis member who sponsors the Builders Club at KPMS arranged to have the club hold a “doll spa” for over 50 dolls that needed some TLC; the same Kiwanian volunteers every Thursday to work on safety checking items that may have been recalled; another Kiwanian spends her weekends working the garage-sale scene to find garage-sale families who may want to donate the kids’ stuff they don’t sell; and another Kiwanian who sponsors a Key Club at Gig Harbor High School will have her club make blankets for babies we serve at EBC – West Sound. This is one example of a way that the Gig Harbor community can get involved in helping young children in our community not just survive, but thrive.”
People can help out in many ways. They can volunteer at the warehouse in Bremerton to help sort items, pull orders and maintain inventory. The warehouse is open on Mondays 6 to 8pm, Thursdays 9 to 11am and Saturdays 9am to noon. The warehouse is located at 1463 NE Dawn Road in Bremerton. Interested individuals can register to volunteer online at BabyCorner.org/EBC-West-Sound. People can also talk to their friends about volunteering—spread the word! One good way to do that is to go to the EBC – West Sound’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/EBCWestSound and “like” it and “share it,” as well as like and share individual postings on the Facebook page as well.
Another way people can show support is by donating goods. Anything a child could need is accepted, from cothing, toys and hard goods like high chairs and pack n plays, as long as they are in good “baby clean” condition. People can also donate money, which helps EBC purchase the essentials children need but that are not often donated in large quantities. These items include car seats, diapers and formula. Community members have also held donation drives at their church, home or business to help out as well. Some of the items that EBC is always in need of are diapers—particularly size 5 and 6, shoes of all sizes and strollers.
As Eastside Baby Corner continues to grow and expand, the board is sharing their success with other communities across the country. The hope is to continue to expand the idea and create new chapters further out from King County.
About one in 10 people living in Kitsap and North Pierce County receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and 12 percent of families with children in these areas are living below the poverty line. Helping these struggling families keep a child safe, fed and warm goes a tremendous way toward creating a strong family environment in which a child can thrive instead of just survive. If you have time or funds to give, or are ready to let go of the old baby clothes, shoes, stroller or car seat, partner with Eastside Baby Corner, and your donations will help improve lives for your neighbors.