As a community organizer, Nicole Gates’ concern for the city’s alarming infant mortality rate led her to ask a simple question. What could she and her church do to tackle the problem in their neighborhood?
“I didn’t want to hear of babies dying of things we can prevent,” says Gates. The answer was to open Baby Feats, a nonprofit store housed at Promise Land Church in Frayser, which provides free nursery items to families in need.
To determine what products struggling parents needed most, Gates did some research. A Huggies survey, Every Little Bottom, showed that some babies become ill with staph infections and hepatitis when parents must reuse soiled diapers. So Gates decided to create a diaper bank, which provides free diapers to tide parents over at the end of the month. “When parents are on a fixed income, cloth diapers are often not an option,” says Gates, noting child care centers won’t allow them. The diaper bank gives recipients one week’s worth of diapers.
The store also provides cribs at no cost, aimed at lowering the number of infant deaths due to co-sleeping. Other safety items include car seats and first-aid kits. Accidents at home are common, “and many parents don’t have a basic first-aid kit,” notes Gates. The products are all donated by partner organizations like United Healthcare, which made the first-aid kits available. “When the ladies come through, we’re not just giving them free things, they also watch a video on SIDS and diapering. And they learn how to properly install a car seat,” says Gates. The nonprofit opened November 1st, and serves approximately 30 to 35 families per month, largely through referrals from social service agencies like Porter Leath.
Gates’ passion for children didn’t go unnoticed. She left her volunteer status behind last July to work as Shelby County’s Infant Mortality Campaign Coordinator. Daughter Yolanda Gates manages the store.
Baby Feats Open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Promise Land Church 3430 Overton Crossing, Frayser Interested in donating? Call 214-5463 to learn more