Ten years ago, a new facility designed to help ease stress for parents and their children opened its doors in New London.
The vision of BABES (Believers Assisting Babies Experiencing Stress) has grown from those early stages and is continuing to reach more families than ever before.
BABES is a short-term, no cost, not for profit respite program providing stress alleviation for young parents who face possible risk factors impacting the quality of life for their children and the stability of their family. BABES programs are provided regardless of political or religious affiliations, financial status or ethnicity by encouraging self respect, self reliance, and self control.
The facility, which opened in the summer of 2004, is available for parents of children from newborn age to 12 years of age. Parents who find they have no outlet to vent their feelings and frustrations can receive help from BABES. Parents who feel they are at the end of their rope, or feel that their children are in a compromised situation, can receive assistance from BABES. Parents can bring their child to BABES one day per week for up to five hours. The facility is open Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m.; parents should plan to pick up their child at 4:45 p.m.
“BABES of New London became a reality due to several key persons,” said Carrie Katerzynske, a member of the board of directors. “Darla Ritchie, a New London resident, had been very active in the school district with mentoring programs. She was introduced to the BABES program in Appleton, and she wanted to bring it to New London.”
Ritchie talked to the mayor, police chief, and several citizens about making this dream a reality. Word got out, volunteers began to come together, and a board of directors was formed. Then, it was time to look for a building.
“Kari Ort-Bunting worked with area realtors and helped us get the great facility we now have,” said Katerzynske. “Kari was on the board of directors, and she helped us set up our own program, using Appleton’s program as a guide. We’ve had some struggles along the way, but good people have always stepped up, and we’re stronger now than ever before.”
Many volunteers have given their time, talent and treasure to help BABES succeed. Three directors have served at the facility. Currently, Polly Fitzgerald holds that position.
“Our needs have changed over the years. Community support is key to our success,” said Fitzgerald. “Many think our facility is a day care, which it is not. Some misunderstand our goals when they find out that we offer Christian programs. We aren’t trying to get anyone to join any church. We’re here for the entire community, not just Christians or low-income or other demographics. We’re here for every family and we want to help everyone.
“Parents can bring their children here for any reason, as long as what the parent is doing while they’re away is healthy,” continued Fitzgerald. “For example, a parent might bring their child here if they have an interview to go to, a class to take, grocery shopping to complete, or to just get away for a few hours. Parents must complete a registration packet ahead of time, which takes about 20 minutes.”
Services provided at BABES include a nutritious snack and lunch for kids and personal care items for parents on a need basis. Shampoo, deodorant, laundry soap, wipes, diapers, Kleenex, toilet paper, and dish soap are some of the items that are available to parents who are in desperate need. The facility receives assistance in obtaining these items from the Help for the Homeless Program, coordinated by Christian family radio station WEMI out of Appleton.
“We are not a community cupboard; we concentrate on child care,” said Fitzgerald. “But the items supplied through the Help for the Homeless Program are a Godsend.”
Fitzgerald noted that counseling services, guidance, and a listening ear are available for parents who are in stressful situations. “We’re here to help in cases of emergency as well,” she added.
BABES of New London served 102 families in 2013; 28 of them were new families. A total of 3,080 service hours were logged by BABES volunteers in 2013.
Donations from the community help keep BABES going, and a “needs and wants” list is available so that citizens know how they can help.
“We can use some new or slightly used items,” said Fitzgerald. “If you have something you’d like to donate, stop by and our staff can look it over to see if it’s something we can use.”
BABES has expanded its offerings by housing a location for the Waupaca County Pregnancy Information Center, which is open on Thursday mornings and all day Friday. Also, the Waupaca County Healthy Families program, administered by Kasey Kaepernick, uses the facility in the evenings to offer other family programming.
“Our goal for the future is to continue to expand our hours of service and our program offerings within the community,” said Fitzgerald. “We want to become more of a family resource center for New London. We need volunteers to help with programs, and our board of directors is always seeking new members. Monetary gifts – which are tax deductible – are always welcome.”
“As we receive additional funding, we will add additional programs and hours as we see fit for our budget,” concluded Fitzgerald. “We would like to see this program around for years to come as we all could use a break sometimes.
BABES will hold its Annual Banquet on Thursday, May 15, at Crystal Falls. The evening’s events will kick off at 5:30 p.m., with music by Sonic Boom. A silent auction and a live auction will be held, followed by dinner. The raffle winners will be drawn after dinner, and the event is expected to conclude by 9:30 p.m.
To learn more about BABES, visit the facility at 102 Northridge Drive, visit babesofnl.weebly.com, or call 920-982-9995.