They fill the room with garbled noises and the scent of baby powder, and their soft skin is hard to resist.
Babies fill a special place inside the hearts of those around them. But they require much care and attention, something that is easier for some to provide than others.
To help families ensure the best care for their babies, Elaine Williamson is there to help. At the beginning of June, Williamson assumed the role of program director for A Baby's Closet, a nonprofit ministry designed to help low-income families get the items they need for their baby, as well as to encourage them to learn more about caring for their child.
A part of the Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County ministry, A Baby's Closet has two locations — 2-5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at First Christian Church, 4800 S. Calhoun St., and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays at Trinity United Methodist Church, 609 Putnam St.
According to the mission statement in its brochure, A Baby's Closet “is a collaborative effort to improve the lives of Allen County's disadvantaged infants and toddlers by offering their mothers and fathers incentives for responsible parenting.”
These “incentives” provide parents with a chance to earn coupons when they visit their doctor and attend a variety of classes about prenatal care, well-baby care, responsible parenting and education.
For those whose provider is not in the Baby's Closet system, Williamson said parents can ask for a non-provider form to have their pediatrician or doctor mark upon their visits, as well as when their baby receives his or her immunizations.
The coupons the parents earn can then be redeemed for items ranging from cribs and car seats to clothes, toys and miscellaneous items. Each item is marked with the appropriate number of coupons needed for purchasing.
Williamson said the ministry survives by donations. Her biggest problem is her inventory. She never knows what she is going to have, and there are some items such as car seats and diapers that go very quickly.
She can't accept used cribs and car seats, but Williamson said people can donate other items to A Baby's Closet, as well as monetary donations.
In addition to help from individuals, many donations also come from churches, organizations, groups and individuals who hold baby showers for A Baby's Closet.
Williamson is excited to work with families and with the ministry. Even though she is the new program director, she is not unfamiliar with the ministry.
“I had been the co-coordinator for the last year, and I've been at Associated Churches for 12 years,” Williamson said. “So, I'm familiar with the Baby's Closet and dispensing coupons in between. But Carolyn Gorom , who is my site coordinator, and I, we did this together for the last year, and the opportunity just came where I could do this.”
Now she has more of an opportunity to deliver coupons and see their service providers' facilities, something she is excited about.
Williamson, who said she is paid for 15 hours per week, often puts in more time at the Baby's Closet than that.
“A lot of weeks, I don't even put it on the clock. It's just fun to work with them,” Williamson said of Baby's Closet clients. “I may have already had my hours in, but I'll go to the Baby Closet because it's just really neat when the mother can come in and know she can get something that she earned.”
Williamson also has seven volunteers who help her. She said most of them have been or are parents, as well as some who are grandparents.
Some volunteers have been with the Baby's Closet throughout its duration. They encourage the mothers and fathers who come in, and according to Williamson, “the mothers are just comfortable with them.”
Williamson's excitement and heart for babies and their mothers and fathers come through when talking to her. She is always working to do what she can to ensure that babies are properly cared for and nurtured.
“Once a mother always a mother,” Williamson said, a mother herself.