Community

Keystone Church offers children's items to families in need

'No questions asked' at Swaddling Clothes

Rebekah Wright (from left), Kelsey Ritscher, Amie Slapnicka and Donna Busch are the main volunteers coordinating Swaddling Clothes at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Keystone. The outreach provides free clothing, diapers and other items to young families once a month. (Grace King/The Gazette)
Rebekah Wright (from left), Kelsey Ritscher, Amie Slapnicka and Donna Busch are the main volunteers coordinating Swaddling Clothes at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Keystone. The outreach provides free clothing, diapers and other items to young families once a month. (Grace King/The Gazette)
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KEYSTONE — People in need can look for free children’s holiday gifts, children’s clothing, diapers, maternity clothes and other necessities at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Keystone once a month.

The congregation is the fourth Lutheran church in Iowa to launch Swaddling Clothes, an outreach program that provides clothing, diapers and other items to families with children up to five year olds. All items are available to anyone in need, with no questions asked.

“There’s a large amount of need in the community, and we aim to serve it,” said Amie Slapnicka, volunteer with Swaddling Clothes. “The need is out there, so the response is, too.”

Swaddling Clothes was created a decade ago by a pastor’s wife in Illinois. Since then, it has spread to 17 churches in 12 states. There are four Swaddling Clothes programs in Iowa — Keystone, Lowden, Marengo and Ottumwa.

St. John’s Swaddling Clothes is open 9 a.m. to noon on the second Saturday of each month. The next opening will be Dec. 14.

Swaddling Clothes accepts donations of gently used children’s clothing, maternity clothes, diapers, wipes, breast pumps, seasonal items such as winter coats and boots, and other basic necessities.

Swaddling Clothes is now taking donations of toys for Christmas gifts.

Slapnicka, who has three daughters under the age of six, said the holidays can be a stressful time for parents who “don’t have the funds to be Santa this year.”

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“People can feel really alone in trying to meet the needs of a child, and we’re here to help in any way we can,” Slapnicka said.

Every Christmas, the church puts up a Giving Tree, where they collect names and items families need for the holidays, said Kelsey Ritscher, another Swaddling Clothes volunteer.

A lot of people each year were asking for basic necessities such as socks and underwear.

“We got to talking and decided there must be a need for this all year around, too,” Ritscher said.

Donna Busch, church secretary and organizer of Swaddling Clothes, added that the program is “really picky” about the quality of items being donated and everything is washed before being put out on the tables.

“We don’t ask about income,” Busch said. “We mostly want information like cellphone numbers, so we can text you about the next month’s opening.”

The volunteers say Swaddling Clothes is a “labor of love” for the church.

A 101-year-old woman who is part of the congregation knitted baby hats to donate to the outreach. A dentist donated toothpaste and toothbrushes.

A lot of parents whose own children have outgrown their baby clothes have given the items to Swaddling Clothes.

New and gently used items can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, at St. John’s, 201 Fourth Ave, Keystone, or by appointment by calling the church office at (319) 442-3514.

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For more information about Swaddling Clothes, go to it Facebook page at Swaddling Clothes-St. John Lutheran Church, Keystone, Iowa.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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