The Bristol Hospital Parent and Child Center is a member of the National Diaper Bank that helps provide assistance to parents in need.
At the center at 222 Main St., parents are able to receive free items for their child such as diapers, food, and clothing including maternity clothes for expecting mothers from what is called the “Caring Closet.” If non-material items are needed, the center employees and volunteers can direct the family to the appropriate resources. If assistance is needed for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, that office is just a floor above the Caring Closet.
“Eligibility is having a child. Most of our families are low income. Others may have a specific instance where there was an unexpected loss of a job, but the majority of our families 85 percent receive WIC services, so they qualify as low income, which means they would qualify for other services,” said Parent and Child Center director Amanda Sawyer.
“It’s a basic application process,” said Sawyer. “They’re automatically qualified for four visits a year. They have to have proof of a child, and have the child with them for the first time that they register, and then they just show an I.D the next four times they come in.”
Sawyer hosted a volunteer orientation for anyone who wanted to help out at the center.
“We accept volunteers on a rolling basis. Everybody can assimilate into the Caring Closet environment,” said Sawyer. “If someone didn’t have extensive background in a subject, they would co-facilitate with someone, and we provide a lot of hands-on training here.”
Sawyer told the orientation participants that the clientele represents a mix of family styles. They may not see just a mother and child, or a mother and father, and child. The staff has met families where a grandmother is raising her own young child, and the grandchild, or the mother and father of the child are either not married, or not together at all, but they’re coming to the center to equally take care of their child. She also told the participants about having a good customer service attitude, and not to tell a client that you understand them if you’ve never been in the situation, but to let them know you are hearing what they’re saying to you about their needs.
“I just really love the families that we work with, and I just want to provide the best programs that I possibly can for families. Sometimes that comes from providing basic needs, and other times it comes from creating programs, and making sure we’re delivering quality services,” said Sawyer.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jamila Young, email her at News@BristolObserver.com.