MORRIS – When Loretta Temple moved to Morris seven years ago, she came with three children in tow, the youngest only 1-year-old and still in diapers.
Living on Social Security Disability because of a life-threatening illness, money was sometimes short and diapers were hard to come by.
“There wasn’t a lot of help when my daughter was younger and I couldn’t always afford diapers,” Temple said. “The one program out there who could help me had limited hours that I couldn’t always get to.”
In December, Temple decided she was at a time in her life where she could do something about the need. She started the Mommy and Me Pregnancy and Newborn Outreach Program out of her Morris home.
“I’m not trying to take anyone’s place in the community,” Temple said. “I’m trying to add to the services offered.”
Temple and her 8-year-old daughter, Olivia Collins, sat in their living room discussing what they would name the program when “Mommy and Me” popped into her head.
“It’s named for me and mommy,” Collins said.
Temple started a Facebook page for her program and invited people she knew – both those willing to help others and those in need of help. Before long she had more than 290 members.
One member, Erin Duggins of Morris, stepped up to help with the administrative aspects of the page, and quickly the two formed a baby-needs gathering team.
As people learn about the program and ask to join the private group on Facebook, they are greeted by either Temple or Duggins, who control the site from their computers and phones for more hours than either are willing to count.
Amanda Teague of Bradford, who grew up in Coal City, found the page while searching Facebook for programs that could help her with her first pregnancy.
“I found them on Facebook and requested to join,” Teague said. “It was really easy to get started with them, and you don’t find many sites like this one.”
Teague is getting out of a stormy relationship and is starting over gathering stuff she’ll need for her daughter who is due April 27.
Mommy and Me Pregnancy and Newborn Outreach Program was able to find her a bathtub, clothes, diapers, blankets, a car seat and a bassinet, which Teague came to Morris to pick up Tuesday.
Teague is considering moving back to the Grundy County area and Temple and Duggins are helping her to find the resources – such as a local doctor – she’ll need to be successful.
Resource and referral are another aspect of the program’s outreach.
“We have one new mom, it’s her first time pregnant, and she said she doesn’t know what she needs,” Duggins said. “Because I know what a pregnant woman and new mom needs, I can help her make lists and find resources that will help her.”
Temple said some mothers are unaware of what is available and they refer them to Women, Infants and Children, WIC, or to the hospital, which sometimes can offer help to get breast pumps if a woman plans to breastfeed and doesn’t have insurance to cover the cost.
The biggest struggle for the group is getting and keeping supplies that can’t be returned after use, such as diapers, wipes and formula.
When they have a need they post it to their Facebook group wall and hope that someone can donate.
Clothes are easier to get, and they have bins of clothing for babies up to 12 months old. Duggins also keeps clothing and toys for older children at her Morris home to help when a mom has older kids who need items.
Another struggle they are facing is the distance of travel to reach some of the mothers asking for help.
“We are having a hard time meeting the demands outside of Morris,” Temple said. “If we have someone going to that area, we are able to send items, but otherwise all we can do is call around their area and search online to try to find them the help they need.”
There currently is no income guidelines for asking for help, but Duggins said they try to get to know the person via phone or on Facebook to see if they are in need or are getting items elsewhere.
“I tend to trust people and I hope if they are coming to us for help, they really need it,” Temple said.
As they move forward with their program they are looking at how to create a nonprofit corporation so they can accept monetary donations in addition to items.
“As we work toward becoming a 501(c)3 we will be making guidelines and requirements for the program, as well as creating an application,” Temple said. “I hope one day to be big enough that driving distance isn’t an issue.”
Temple said the most exciting part of the program for her also is what sets her group apart from any other – involvement.
“We’ve had a couple of women reach out to us who have no one to go with them to the hospital when they are in labor, and I quickly told them I’d be glad to be there,” Temple said. “I’ve always wanted another baby and since I can’t have anymore, I can live vicariously through our clients.”
Mommy and Me Pregnancy and Newborn Outreach ProgramLoretta Temple: 815-210-3279; email: firstname.lastname@example.orgErin Duggins: 779-435-2508
Items needed:Diapers, wipes, baby lotion, baby wash, formula, clothes, strollers, swings, bouncy seats, cribs, changing tables, bottles, breast pumps and other baby related items