– Nearly a quarter of Licking County residents is single mothers, said Beth Walter, director of the New Life Community Center’s Baby Pantry, which is a year old this month. “My motivation was my sister, who’s a single mom,” she said. “Last year, when we were deciding what type of community service our Community Center wanted to provide in our area, we never imagined how needed the New Life Baby Pantry would be.” Walter manages the pantry with Sharon Scheidegger.
The baby pantry is an extension of Hebron’s New Life Community Center in the former Bowman Chevrolet building in downtown Hebron. Walter explained there are roughly 20 food pantries in Licking County, but there was only one baby pantry. She said the New Life Community Baby Pantry opened its doors November 2009, helping 10 clients from an eight by nine feet room. By October 2010, the pantry moved twice to its current home in a 1,200 square feet section of the building where it now serves 192 clients.
The pantry offers baby supplies, such as diapers, food, toiletries, formula, and clothing for babies and adolescents at no cost to qualified parents in Licking and areas of Perry and Fairfield counties. Walter said there’s no income limitation to who’s served, but new clients will need to bring proof of residency, such as a drivers license or rental agreement, and proof of child. Bringing the child to the pantry is obviously perfectly acceptable, or a hospital form. Client visits are limited to once per month to serve as many people as possible.
In October, the baby pantry served 66 clients, gave out 22 cans of formula, 760 diapers, 64 wipes, 26 bottles of baby wash, 33 bottles of shampoo, 159 jars of baby food and 798 items of clothing, not including shoes and socks.
Donated items and monetary gifts stock the pantry. Walter said any infant and children’s clothing from newborn to size 14, shoes, jackets, blankets, crib and bed sheets, gently used car seats, cribs, strollers, high chairs, and bounce chairs are accepted. “Basically we take anything that someone with a small child can use,” she said. Pantry partners include the New Life Community United Methodist Church, Hebron Christian Church, Jacksontown United Methodist Church, Buckeye Lake LEADS, Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church, Heartbeats, Read 4-20, Molina Health Care, Licking County Health Department, and the Hebron Lions Club.
Pastor Brian Harkness, who serves as pastor for the New Life and Hebron United Methodist churches, said the New Life Community Center and the churches lend helping hands as well. “The community center was always about the vision,” he said. Harkness wants to serve as many local youths as possible in as many ways as possible.
The community center sponsors an after school program Wednesday and Thursday evenings and video game nights two Saturdays per month. “We’ve become a bus stop this year,” he said, adding that the community center is a safe haven in the mornings for children, primarily elementary schoolaged, to wait for buses. The churches are working together to help the unemployed find work. “We try to be a resource center,” said Harkness. The churches do their best to steer job seekers to the agencies that can provide the best help.
Currently the New Life services are held at Lakewood Middle School at 10:30 a.m. Sundays following the Hebron United Methodist Church services at 9:15 a.m. “My dream is for a regional church and outreach center in Hebron,” said Harkness.