Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Matthew 25 Grant Recipient: Birthright of Sunbury Continues Mission of Providing Care for Women and their Babies

At Birthright of Sunbury, the mission today is the same as it was 40 years ago: meet the needs of pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children, serving them all with compassion and respect.

The pro-life organization was founded in 1983 with a focus on uplifting and supporting women, reminding new moms and moms-to-be that they are not alone in facing the challenges of providing for their children.

“We’ve been established here in the community for 40 years, so generation after generation knows that we’re present, that we’re here to help,” said Dolores Romine, who has served as the director of Birthright of Sunbury for the past 20 years. “When a woman comes in, our goal is to meet her needs, whatever they are.”

Those needs can run the gamut from material assistance like clothing and diapers, to the need for financial resources and emotional support. Whatever those needs might be, Birthright’s experienced and compassionate volunteers are at the ready.

Birthright’s bright and spacious office and resource center, located on South 5th Street, is open and staffed by volunteers three days a week. Mothers, fathers and grandparents can find everything they need to care for their little ones: homemade knit blankets and hats, gently used outfits, onesies, shirts, pants, dresses, diapers, toys, crib mattresses, formula, shampoo, wipes and ointment. Everything is provided at no cost, thanks to the generosity of donors, churches and organizations.

The ministry also provides pregnancy testing and maternity items; resources on pregnancy, childbirth, childcare and adoption; and local referrals for professional counseling, financial assistance, housing and medical care.

“We’re meeting the needs of women where they are, right then and there. Sometimes, that’s just being someone they can talk to who really cares about them, someone they can trust and have a confidential conversation with,” Romine said.

The continuum of care offered at Birthright is a testimony to how much of a lifeline the organization is to the people it serves in Northumberland County. Last year, Birthright distributed upwards of 35,000 diapers and served clients across 800 visits.

“Among the people we serve are those who live in deep poverty. That’s a different demographic than those at poverty level,” Romine said. “Deep-poverty families live 50 percent below the poverty threshold. Northumberland County is a high-risk county for people living in deep poverty.”

According to the Center for Poverty and Inequality Research, people living in deep poverty represent 6.2 percent of the total population, and 48 percent of those in poverty. It equates to an annual income below $13,740 for a family of four.

“Getting some new clothes and needed diapers provides deep-poverty families with the dignity they deserve,” Romine said.

A Matthew 25 Grant Recipient

Birthright of Sunbury is one of 35 ministries within the Diocese to receive a total of $170,000 in grants from last year’s Matthew 25 Collection. The annual collection is an undertaking of the Diocese to assist parish-sponsored programs that provide food, clothing and shelter to people in need.

This year’s collection is the weekend of November 19. Monies contributed by parishioners will be directed into grants for area ministries, like Birthright of Sunbury. Some of these ministries help alleviate the burden of food insecurity. Others provide shelter for those who are homeless, or help provide the less-fortunate with warm clothing.

All funds contributed to the Matthew 25 Collection benefit local needs. Seventy-five percent of the monies are distributed to programs within the Diocese via grants. Twenty-five percent of the monies are returned to parishes for their use in assisting others.

“Since 2014, we have received over $9,000 in Matthew 25 grants, and it has served more than 420 children,” Romine said. “Children have been served over the years through the Matthew 25 grant with items like new coats, infant formula and new clothing.”

This year’s grant is going toward the purchase of bountiful layettes provided to new moms. The generous collection of items amounts to more than $200 worth of clothing, blankets, toys, pacifiers, bottles, wipes and other items for the baby’s first few months.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, volunteer and former Birthright director Ellie Fogarty was stocking shelves with infant items, just like she’s been doing for the past 40 years.

She continues to serve at Birthright to “see the positive improvement in the lives of the women. We’re here to give them advice, resources, material assistance and connect them to the help they need right away.”

“We help them get over the hump for other things they need in life to try to get ahead and take care of their families,” Fogarty said. “We want to be able to give the women everything as nice as it can be. Items donated by churches, groups and different organizations allow that to happen.”

Simply stated, Birthright of Sunbury wouldn’t be able to continue its mission of serving women, infants and children without its dedicated volunteers, donors and benefactors.

“We understand how financially difficult things are today. We are ever so thankful for the kindness of the Matthew 25 grant throughout the years so that we can reach the demographic living in dire circumstances,” Romine said.

She expressed gratitude for those contributing to the Matthew 25 Collection this month. “You’re doing exactly what Our Lord Jesus Christ said: ‘Whatever you do for the least of my brethren, you do for me.’ Our clients are also very thankful. They are very aware of who is providing for them.”

“There have been times in the winter that children came in without shoes, socks or hats. Your funding provided for them,” Romine said. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, for putting Jesus’ words in action.”

Learn more about the Matthew 25 Collection and how you can contribute at www.hbgdiocese.org/matthew25. Find information on Birthright of Sunbury at www.birthright.org/sunbury.

(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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