By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“Small things affect big things.”
Cited repeatedly by the guest speaker for Sunday’s WestSide Baby Tea, it underscored the group’s mission, supported by donations totaling, in the preliminary count, more than (updated) $255,000 – above last year’s tally despite 100 cancellations following a night-long snowfall.
“It’s kind of serious, why we are here – but it’s OK to have a party while we do it,” said emcee Ian Lindsay.
The guest speaker was Joanne Goldblum, executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network, of which WS Baby is a member, and its own executive director Nancy Woodland a founding board member.
Diapers are at the heart of WS Baby’s work – getting them to families who cannot afford them, which, as WS Baby board vice-chair Chip Hellar reminded the crowd, leaves babies hurting.
But it’s grown to encompass much more.
WS Baby works to get other items to families with young children, including life-saving car seats. And WS Baby’s expanded its service area beyond its founding community of West Seattle and current headquarters community of White Center. Last year, 24,000 children were helped by its work, and they’re hoping to help thousands more – in underserved areas such as central/south Seattle.
That’s why the generosity of the hundreds who came to the Sea-Tac Hilton Conference Center on Sunday afternoon mattered so much – as did the support of sponsors, including other nonprofits and area businesses (WSB among them). The businesses help in many ways, including donating prizes; upon arrival, we bumped into Shannon Felix of Avalon Glassworks and glass artist Meredith Massar:
Blowing glass at AGW, Massar made the glass “petit fours” inside these boxes that each went for a $50 donation:
The twist is that the boxes weren’t to be opened until a certain point in the event – when one box-holder discovered a bonus inside; this time, it was a $1,000 diamond ring from Wyatt’s Jewelers (WSB sponsor) – and much laughter resulted when the winner turned out to be WS Baby board chair Margaret Peyton. Other fundraising rounds included the “Tombola” drawing, with prizes including a big-screen TV, a call for pledges of specific amounts, and a call for new members to join the “Giving Circle,” pledging specific amounts for a three-year commitment.
At the tables around the room, instead of a banquet dinner, guests enjoyed old-fashioned tea service, with beautiful teapots circulated and a choice of 10 types of tea. Savory and sweet bites – from “balsamic wild mushroom ragout in mini pastry cup” to mini-cupcakes from West Seattle’s Stuffed Cakes – qwaited guests at each cheerily decorated table, hosted and planned by its captain.
Back on stage, Woodland noted her eighth year at the WestSide Baby helm. She too spoke of the interconnectedness of us all – how no one is truly “self-made” – we all are boosted by help from others, and that goes for the children of the community assisted by those who make WS Baby’s work possible: “Each of these children and babies need us.”:
The person of whom she spoke at the end was Isseth Ruiz, once a WestSide Baby client, now a volunteer. Her story exemplified Woodland’s message – how everyone’s success stems from someone else’s generosity. After help got her and her family through tough times, they are now on the verge of buying their own house, and Ruiz is teaching her children how vital it is to give.
Young volunteers, by the way, played a role in the event – from welcoming attendees, to helping with drawings, as did Woodland’s children McInnis and (in the next picture with emcee Lindsay) Phineas:
The inspirational speeches continued between donation rounds and prize drawings. Keynote speaker Goldblum asked attendees to think of the small details that make big differences in people’s lives – and how there is so much misconception around those in need, many of whom work hard, but at jobs that pay little, yet demand much, and force choices parents shouldn’t have to make.
She said she drives around with socks and underwear in the trunk of her car, because she gives them to homeless people – who wear those essentials for weeks at a time, with nowhere to store them, nowhere to wash them. She explained how the inability to afford cleaning products might lead to a family losing custody of a child – a home might be dirty because of financial difficulty rather than neglect, and that could eventually bring involvement of the child-welfare system. And so it is with diapers – not covered by food stamps or other assistance received by families in need, but expensive, so they might be worn by a baby or toddler for far longer than they should be worn, soiled and damp, leading to rashes and illnesses and pain.
Goldblum started a diaper bank back east a decade ago “in the living room, with friends,” and it eventually morphed into something big. WS Baby received a million diapers from the Diaper Bank Network last year, and expects another million this year, and yet that’s a fraction of what’s needed by the families it serves. In addition to the buying power of dollars raised at events like today’s tea, WS Baby also collects diapers via donation drives large and small, throughout the year – something very simple and personal such as a birthday party where the guest of honor asks for diapers rather than gifts, or something big like the annual “Stuff the Bus” donation drive in July.
And then there are the hours donated by volunteers – more than 10,710 last year, given by almost 900 volunteers. A new volunteer-recognition award was launched at Sunday’s tea, named after WS Baby founder Donna Pierce, presented to Nancy McDonnell, who was also among 30 weekly volunteers listed in the tea program. Woodland spoke of McDonnell’s unwavering commitment despite health and mobility challenges.
If you weren’t there but want to help the thousands of children WestSide Baby is serving – here’s how. And keep watch for events throughout the year, including the aforementioned Stuff the Bus mega-diaper drive that’s now less than six months away.