The Lydia Ladies Circle of First United Methodist Church in Hollidaysburg is helping moms and babies all over the world as well as in the Altoona area.
When a baby is born, it immediately has some basics needs, and the circle works to supply them.
For the fourth year, it has assembled layette kits for the Altoona District Mission Central HUB, a work that supports the United Methodist Committee on Relief, a nonprofit organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering around the globe.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Patty Cawthern (left) of Juniata and Carol Hooper of Altoona wrap baby items in a receiving blanket at the First United Methodist Church of Hollidaysburg. The women are members of Lydia Ladies Circle, which collects and assembles the items for the United?Methodist Committee on Relief.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Wanda Bryant of the Knitters and Crocheters group at First United Methodist Church works on a sweater
The layette kits include two receiving blankets,two undershirts or onesies, two washcloths, two gowns or sleepers, a sweater or jacket, six cloth diapers and two diaper pins.
The 20-year-old circle consists of 12 to 15 women ranging in age from their 40s to about 90. They meet monthly to devote time to the project, as well as sharing devotions and fellowship.
During the year, they watch for bargains and purchase baby items to make the kits. In the first couple of years, the women were able to put together about 12 to 15 kits, leader Rhonda Anuszkiewicz said.
Last year, they quadrupled that number. This year they put together 94 kits for babies.
Through UMCOR and its branches, the layette items and other humanitarian relief packages, such as birthing, school, health and cleaning bucket kits, go to families when natural or man-made disasters disrupt their lives and communities.
UMCOR's Sager Brown Depot is in Baldwin, La., but branch warehouses are located throughout the United States. One of those branches is Mission Central in Mechanicsburg of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Mission Central works with more than 25 HUBs which are located in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, said Barbara Glass, site coordinator for the HUB, located at 1738 North Branch Ave. It is located behind the state Drivers License Exam Center.
Glass said the letters in HUB stand for Humble, Uniform but Unique, and the Birthing of New Ideas.
While most layette kits go to Mechanicsburg and may then on to UMCOR in Louisiana, some baby items are donated to local shelters and Precious Life Pregnancy Crisis Center, said Marty Shiffler, the HUB representative for First United Methodist Church.
Some kits sent to Mission Central in Mechanicsburg stay in the Northeast to help people here, such as the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"Anything donated is never in vain," said Shiffler. "It is used somewhere."
While the Lydia Ladies Circle worked on its own to assemble the kits for two years, it was able to expand its donation in 2013 and 2014 by asking the congregation and the church's Knitters and Crocheters group for help.
Anuszkiewicz said she made presentations at each of First United Methodist's five services that are held Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings.
She said she told the congregation, "We are fortunate. When someone is going to have a new baby, we have a shower to help the mother and the child. There are places in the world where that is not possible. We can present something to welcome a child into the world."
For 2014, the congregation donated $2,000 as well as baby items, Anuszkiewicz said.
"Once the need is presented to the church, the people are very generous," she said.
Aware that every penny counts, the circle makes an effort to stretch those donations by bargain hunting and taking advantage of sales.
Anuszkiewicz even has baby needs on her mind when she is shopping for herself.
"When I go to the outlet stores, I always check Carter's outlet for any sales going on. I also use coupons to get the best I can at the lowest price I can," she said.
One of the challenges for the group was finding quality cloth diapers. A limited number were found at discount stores, and the group even temporarily cleared out a store's online stock.
In addition to the congregation's donations, the Lydia circle partnered with the church's Knitters and Crocheters group, who made baby sweaters.
"We are always looking for projects, to benefit the church and the community," said Donna Shaw, leader of the Knitters and Crocheters and coordinator of the Presbyterian Village Knitters and Crocheters.
Women in both groups give the gift of their time with the yarn being donated by church members and others.
Shaw said each sweater takes about four or five hours to make and one of the women who crochets can do one in an evening. Knitters and Crocheters get together one hour a week at the church to work on their projects.
Each kit costs about $35. "We work to get it to that price," Anuszkiewicz said.
The Finance Office of First United Methodist Church monitors the contributions and expenses. Anuszkiewicz said the women turn in receipts for purchases made with donations so all funds are accountable.
Shiffler said that 100 percent of the donations to UMCOR go to disaster relief. She said administration costs fall under another entity.
"We are humbled to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus and share his love with others in our church, our community, and throughout the world," Anuszkiewicz said.