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For week ended September 05, 1999 Posted 4 Sep 1999

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Charity Founded by LDS Woman sees Explosive Growth

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Charity Founded by LDS Woman sees Explosive Growth
Kent Larsen 2Sep99 C8

HOUSTON, MISSOURI -- When Carol Green started making burial clothes for needy newborns in 1992, she could hardly have forseen that the concept would become an international charity growing at an explosive rate. All she saw was a need that must be met, and her LDS background led her to do the rest And now she has ambitious plans for her charity, Newborns in Need, "I want to see a Newborns in Need chapter in every major city in the World."

Carol first discovered the need when she attended a quilting club meeting in the Summer of 1992. She read in an Arizona-based sewing magazine that some needy newborns that died would be buried in paper sacks or discarded with medical waste simply because no one had the money or resources to provide burial clothing. The others at the quilting club meeting thought that the article was inaccurate, "Everyone else thought that [the article] was a joke. I was the only one that got mad."

Like many LDS Church members, Carol had to know if her friends' assumptions were correct, "I'm a person who has to know the truth." Carol used the information in the article to contact the woman quoted, and discovered that every word was true. She then called hospitals in her area, and discovered that they also faced the same problem -- no burial clothing for needy children.

So Carol approached friends, many of whom were members of the Church contacted through Relief Society and other Church meetings, and started manufacturing burial clothing. Her husband then pointed out that living needy children also needed clothes. Soon Carol and her friends were producing those clothes too - baby gowns, hats, blankets, sleepers, isolet covers and other essential items were produced and donated to area hospitals for needy children.

For nearly 6 years, Carol and her friends tried to meet local needs, and then in March 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Resource Conservation and Development office contacted Carol because it saw the potential of Carol's service. They offered to do the work filing for IRS tax-exempt status and to provide basic staff for a year (a secretary and a grant writer/treasurer). Suddenly, Carol could think big. She set a new goal for the organization, "I want to see that every child in the world that needs blankets or clothes is covered."

And the new organization has paid-off in a big way. From a single chapter in the area of her small Ozark Mountain town of Houston, Missouri in March 1998, Newborns in Need has grown to 34 chapters in 24 states and Canada and Australia. All in less than 18 months. And with this growth comes a gratifying explosion in the number of people assisted -- Newborns in Need produced nearly 14,000 items in June alone.

Carol's LDS background has been a big factor, both behind her motivation and in facilitating the charity's growth. She says that it just seemed natural to perform this service because of Church teachings and practices about providing service. She has repeatedly been asked why she would give up so much time and money to run Newborns in Need. She says its because that's what LDS Church members do.

A lot of the growth in the charity has come through LDS Church members talking about Newborns in Need and through local Relief Societies taking-on the charity's work as a service project. Many times this is beneficial to the Church also. In Montgomery Alabama, the stake president perceived a need to make the Church better known in the community, and asked his Public Affairs specialist to find something that the stake could do to become an active part of the community. The Public Affairs specialist discovered Newborns in Need, and soon the Stake had adopted the charity's work as its service project. The stake's Relief Society President is now the president of the local Newborns in Need chapter.

Carol also sees missionary work being done through the charity. She says that when LDS Church members provide public service it is a natural way to show others what the Church is about, "People want to see action. They don't want to hear words, they want to see action." As a result of associating with Newborns in Need, the treasurer of Carol's Ozark chapter joined the Church, after Carol got regular comments from the treasurer expressing wonder at why Carol and the other LDS Church members in her area would perform so much service, "Finally, I said, 'I have these two young friends . . . " and the treasurer soon joined the Church.

While Newborns in Need is a non-denominational organization, and Carol wouldn't want it perceived as a way to get people to join the Church, she does see it as an opportunity for personal missionary work, "These people that aren't LDS yet, just give me a little bit of time."

Carol believes firmly that the Lord is supporting her in this work, and says that His help is clear. Before one work meeting, Carol says that her chapter had no fabric, she feared that she would have to send all the volunteers home without accomplishing anything. But then Carol felt impressed that all would be well, that somehow the fabric would be there. Before the work meeting could start, an unexpected truck load of fabric arrived, and the work meeting was able to proceed.

In setting up Newborns in Need, Carol relied on the organization and practices of the Church for guidance, setting up local presidencies, and even requiring that each chapter pay a 10 percent 'tithe' to support the local organization. Like in the Church, no one gets paid for helping, instead every volunteer provides the time that he or she has, and most volunteers also donate their own money and resources. Carol notes that for every dollar of cash donation that Newborns in Need receives, volunteers have contributed $2 in materials or out of their own pockets.

Local chapters have a limited set of simple requirements. To start a chapter, a group must set up the local organization, and hold an initial 'work meeting' - a meeting where volunteers work on producing items for distribution to hospitals. A sample of their work is then forwarded to the national headquarters for a quality check. Once formed, chapters are required to hold at least 1 work meeting a month, and to report to the national organization a monthly report of their activities, including the amount of money raised, the number of items produced and distributed, and related information. The chapters must also give 10 percent of any cash donated to the national organization to support its services.

But this is not nearly enough. In spite of the U.S. Department of Agriculture support, Newborns in Need has not yet been awarded any grants, although one is still pending. In order to write for more grants, it needs an experienced grant writer. The 'tithe' from the local chapters doesn't provide enough money to cover expenses, and most of the shortfall is coming from Carol's pocket, and from money raised through sales on the online auction site Ebay. Carol jokes that she scours her home for things to sell on Ebay, "Anything that's not nailed to the floor, I'll sell it."

Local chapters face different challenges. For instance, Leah Everett of the New York City chapter observes that just getting enough sewing machines at a work meeting is a challenge. Most people living in New York City don't have sewing machines, and even if they do, its difficult to transport a sewing machine to a work meeting, when you have to use the bus or subway to get there. Still, Leah reports that at a recent meeting, her chapter produced 30 hats, 2 isolet covers and 2 flannel receiving blankets.

And she says that the need is clear in New York City also. The chapter has worked with world-famous Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and is setting up arrangements with St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center. The chapter also will work with the Bronx-based Lincoln Medical and Mental Hospital. And Leah says that this just scratches the surface of the need, "There could be three chapters in Manhattan alone."

More information about Newborns in Need is available at the organization's website for volunteers,

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information