GREEN BAY — Preparations were in full swing on Feb. 6 at the west side location of Love Life Ministry, located in the lower level of the St. Joseph Parish building that formerly served as the rectory.
Volunteers moved about, checking inventory, stocking shelves, straightening clothes racks and organizing paperwork in anticipation of the arrival of mothers and their babies.
The constant motion halted when volunteer Mary Robillard distributed prayer cards. The group gathered to share inspirational words about the value of life and offer intentions for those suffering.
The prayer served as a reminder of why they come together each Thursday. Love Life Ministry, which has roots dating back to 1993, promotes life by assisting families with the basic needs of newborns.
Love Life started when a member of St. Joseph Parish began collecting items for layettes for the N.E.W. Community Clinic in Green Bay. In 1995, that effort grew to the storage of items in the current space and weekly distribution to approximately a dozen families.
“It’s been a little over 17 years that we opened up down here,” said Sharon Zambrowicz, a member of St. Joseph Parish who has served the ministry since almost its inception. “The east side (Peace United Methodist Church) started in the fall of 2004. Each side now has more than 500 families registered.”
Formula and diapers are the two most important needs, added Zambrowicz, whose husband, Larry, also serves the ministry. Clients may receive diapers twice a month and formula once a month.
The formula helps supplement the child’s diet, explained Zambrowicz. WIC (Women, Infants and Children) provides formula to those in need, but as the child grows, that portion is often no longer sufficient. Love Life receives formula from WIC that was returned to the nutrition program unopened. Formula is also sought through donations.
“When a church has a baby shower for us, we ask for formula,” said Zambrowicz. “We receive a lot of support from our churches on the greater west side. The churches on the east side support the east side location. While it is mostly Catholic churches, we do have a couple Protestant churches that help out. We just received nice checks from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish (Green Bay) and Ss. Edward and Isidore Parish (Flintville) from their Christmas collections. We have representatives from some of these churches on our committee. They help us to get things from those churches.”
Also, for the west side location, St. John the Baptist Parish, Howard, recently collected items for Love Life. St. Agnes Parish, Green Bay, has a play pen set up year round for donations. The Quad Parishes (St. Joseph, Annunciation, St. Patrick and St. Jude) not only collect items for the ministry, but include an offering envelope for monetary donations.
Members of Nativity of Our Lord Parish, Ashwaubenon, donate items year-round in a cradle at the church. The Women’s Guild of the parish has supported Love Life for several years.
“We have what we call ‘a rosebud collection.’ We do that once a year,” said Mary Sevcik, a member of Nativity who has served as a Love Life volunteer for five years. “We have little slips that we put in a basket with diapers, formula, clothing and other items written on them. People go out and buy it and donate it for Love Life. I just hauled two carloads here.
“I was overwhelmed when I picked up the stuff,” she added. “It was so generous and it came at a time when we really needed it.”
The Knights of Columbus have also provided financial support and the United Way recently donated several cases of wipes to the ministry, said Zambrowicz.
Individuals also support the ministry. Emily Zambrowicz, Sharon and Larry’s granddaughter, who volunteered at Love Life last summer, is one example.
“(Emily) belongs to St. Joseph Parish in Oneida and is making her confirmation this year,” said Sharon. “She is having a baby shower as her project.”
Layettes are still given out for newborns. Love Life no longer distributes cribs due to safety concerns and recalls. The ministry is now involved in the Safe Sleep Program through the Center of Childhood Safety of Green Bay.
High chairs remain a constant need, she added.
“During the summer, we have volunteers who go to garage sales to look for good used furniture,” said Sharon. “They try to find high chairs, potty chairs, gates, swings.”
Both Love Life sites are open to clients from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays except holidays. Approximately 20 regular volunteers serve the west side location. The reward is seeing the children.
“I make the babies smile,” said Robillard, 92, a member of St. Joseph Parish.
“It’s a calling,” said Nancy Speigelhoff, who has served the ministry since its early years. “It becomes a part of you.”
“We have wonderful volunteers and great community support,” said Sharon. “We will never turn volunteers away, and we will never turn children away.”