As part of her senior seminar project, Fran Wasserman ’11 SCPS turned her passion for service and desire for helping underserved moms and their babies into The Baby Bureau, a non-profit with a heartwarming goal — to dress those babies with new or gently worn clothing.
The first clothing drive was held at Chestnut Hill College and the first funding for the Baby Bureau came from a $500 check Wasserman received from the Religious of the Assumption, as the winner of the St. Marie Eugenie Milleret Award. It is presented annually to a student in the School of Continuing & Professional Studies (SCPS) who exemplifies values of dignity, character, passion, humility, intelligence and vision.
“Chestnut Hill College helped me launch the Baby Bureau without even blinking an eye,” Wasserman says. “In a lot of ways, the Baby Bureau was born here.”
During a 2006 volunteer trip to work with Hurricane Katrina victims, Wasserman realized it was time to put her community service goals into action. When she returned, she discovered Chestnut Hill.
“I didn’t live far and the program with night classes suited my needs,” she says, “and I had heard great things about it, a lot of great things.”
While investigating the program, she met Elaine Green, dean of SCPS, and Mary Ann Borek, student services liaison, who have been ardent supporters of the project since its beginning, and who Wasserman calls her “earth angels.”
With the early help of Green and Borek (who continue to send donations including handmade blankets) as well as her entire SCPS family, Wasserman was able to deliver her first bundles to the Montgomery County Department of Health. Each one consists of 10 to 15 items of seasonally appropriate clothing, including onesies, shoes, sleepers and hats. Working from her home, she delivered almost 70 bundles the first year.
Today, Wasserman works out of donated space with weekly volunteers. Each bundle comprises close to 30 outfits and she has delivered more than 840 so far this year. More than 1,200 babies have been dressed since Wasserman first began her work in 2011 and it is all thanks to an incredible outpouring of support that has come from anybody and everybody who has gotten to know Wasserman’s simple mission to “Recycle, Reuse, and Re-give the love.”
Over the years, donations have come from all kinds of organizations including Oliver Frazier of Bea’s Boy, who re-conditions the baby shoes, one the most important parts of the bundle according to Wasserman, for free, Gerhard’s Appliances, which generously donated washers and dryers to allow the clothes to be cleaned and fresh before being given to the babies, Mainline Quilters, Gail’s Nifty Knitters and the Religious of the Assumption for the handmade items, and Project Linus, which provides many of the blankets which pull the entire bundle together. Volunteers too have started to increase in numbers as individuals, families and even school communities such as Upper Dublin’s national honor society, students from Arcadia University and most recently, a group representing the A.C.H.I.E.V.E. program at Council Rock in Bucks County, Pa, have stepped up to lend a hand and help make sure the babies are well taken care of.
“I never imagined when we delivered that first bundle that this would become so big,” Wasserman says with a smile. “We’re growing, really growing, and we are so fortunate that the community has embraced the project and the babies.”
Wasserman was recently awarded a technical assistance grant for board development from the Foundations Community Partnership in Bucks County.
For Wasserman, it all comes back to Ubuntu, a philosophy she became familiar with through one of her volunteers, one that you can see championed in her own life and in the amazing work done by the Baby Bureau.
“I am because you are, I am because of the community,” Wasserman says. “The Baby Bureau is because of the community. I love that. I love that a lot.”
For more information the Baby Bureau, visit www.thebabybureau.org.
Marilee Gallagher '14