GREEN BAY — Since 1993, Love Life Ministry has provided basic infant needs to low income families. Last year, 1,355 families, with a total of 1,683 children, were served at the Love Life East and West locations.
Diapers, twice a month, and formula are among the items provided by Love Life. When safety concerns for volunteers and clients arose due to COVID-19, alternative distribution methods were considered to carry out the ministry.
“It started out with Central Church closing (March 24). That’s our eastside location,” said Peggy Lemerond, who has served Love Life East for seven years. “Now what do we do to keep people safe?”
“On the west side (located at the Hope Center), when this started, we started handing out both packs of diapers the first time to eliminate traffic,” explained Joann Vaile, who has been with Love Life West for the past eight years. “We did that for two weeks and then decided we are not going to open the doors anymore.”
Instead, clients came to the door, showed their IDs and picked up items that were placed outside.
“We got that idea from the (food) pantry (St. Patrick’s) because they are doing that as well,” said Vaile.
Jake’s Diapers of Little Chute assisted Love Life with its supply. Pallets of diapers were delivered to each location. Jake’s also supplied volunteers in the form of a group of teachers. This allowed senior Love Life volunteers to limit their risk.
“That got us through the first couple weeks,” said Lemerond. “Then United Way contacted Love Life and told us about Operation Community Cares (OCC). They were looking to help people in need of diapers and were interested in how we could work together with them.”
Through a bulk mailing, coordinated by the Quad Parishes on the west side of Green Bay, Love Life clients were instructed to register with OCC to have their volunteers deliver diapers and other items to their doors.
“The mailing was sent out on April 15,” said Vaile. “but I think a lot of (the communication) was word of mouth between clients. We had a lot of phone calls. We would just refer them to Operation Community Cares.”
Diapers from Love Life have been delivered to the OCC warehouse. The partnership has worked smoothly, said Lemerond. OCC and Love Life client lists will be cross referenced once the Love Life locations can reopen, she added.
“Diapers are a very costly item,” said Lemerond. “I’m so happy we can provide for (families). They say that a baby in a dry diaper views the world in a better place.”
Love Life continues to register new families through referrals from Family Services, Family and Childcare Resources, other Brown County agencies and hospitals. The ministry also provides diapers to families in need through Encompass in Green Bay.
Arrangements have been made to distribute layettes at the two locations.
“We still have control of the layettes at both the east and west sides. We call them ‘a baby shower in a box,’” said Lemerond. “We give the mom everything they need when they come home from the hospital.”
Layettes, in addition to diapers and formula, include receiving blankets, outfits, onesies, bibs, socks, wipes, lotion, a book and a toy. Love Life also provides clothing, strollers and Pack ‘n Plays when its locations are in operation.
“We are not concerned about those items at this time,” said Vaile. “It’s mostly diapers and formula.”
Both Vaile and Lemerond are thankful for the support Love Life has received during this difficult time. St. John the Baptist Parish, Howard, donated items a few weeks ago.
“Nativity (of Our Lord Parish, Ashwaubenon) is working on (item donations),” said Vaile. “A number of churches are still donating. We have people who give financial donations on a monthly basis, maybe $50 or $100 a month.”
When possible, Love Life will return to its regular hours of 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays at both locations. While they have managed to serve clients during the pandemic, volunteers have missed the relationships. Lemerond sends out emails to volunteers every seven to 10 days to keep them engaged. Seeing the children they serve is among the rewards.
“Whenever we give a layette out, if they didn’t bring the baby, we tell them, ‘next time, you have to bring the baby,’” said Lemerond with a laugh.
“I usually work in the back, so when somebody comes in with a new baby, I have to come out,” said Vaile. “They can continue to get diapers until the child is 3, so we see them grow. You get really attached to the clients.”