More than two dozen city agencies and community-based organizations in southeast Queens partnered with state Senator Leroy Comrie Saturday, May 14, as he hosted the inaugural Community Baby Shower at the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica.
Giveaways included baby bottles, blankets, clothing, diapers, nursery items and toys, and there were raffles for strollers, car seats and more. The event drew more than 200 participants, and presenters addressed topics such as maternal mental health and car seat safety.
“When you look at the range of city agencies, community-based organizations, small businesses and individuals who partnered to make this Community Baby Shower a reality, you see the true spirit of our neighborhoods,” Comrie said. “You see individuals and institutions committed to the health and well-being of expectant parents and families with young children. You see a collective effort to uplift maternal health, forge a path to healthy childhoods for our young people, and foster the civic fabric that helps make those young people successful, productive adults.”
In addition to providing much-needed items for young parents, the event sought to spark a conversation amongst parents, advocates and healthcare providers about some dangerous trends. Studies show that the leading causes of infant deaths and mortality rates for the top five leading causes of death for African Americans — rates per 10,000 live births — include low birth weight, congenital malformations, maternal complications, sudden infant death syndrome and accidents, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Caring for a new baby can be hard for parents and caregivers,” said Michele Maye, executive director of the NYC Infant Safe Sleep Initiative. “When you are tired, it may seem easier to bring your baby to bed with you, but sharing a sleep surface with your baby can be dangerous. Every year, about 50 babies in New York City die from sleep-related injury due to unsafe sleep practices such as bed-sharing, stomach sleeping and using loose bedding like blankets, comforters and pillows that can cause a baby to suffocate. The good news is these deaths are preventable.”
In support of Queens parents and caregivers, the NYC Infant Sleep Initiative offered free training, information and resources to raise awareness and support families to safeguard infants while they sleep. Facia Class, founder of the White Lotus Collective, said her organization was taking part in the Community Baby Shower to bring much-needed resources to new parents and young families who are in need of extra help.
“We are fortunate to be in a place to lend support to communities and people in need,” Class said. “COVID has thrown us all for a loop, and to hear of people not having basic necessities is heartbreaking — so the White Lotus Collective is giving back as much as we can, as best we can. We all have to dig in and lift each other up as one community. We look forward to working with the senator’s office along with these organizations to provide vital resources that are making a difference every day.”
Other community-based organizations included God’s Blessings Plan, the National Council of Negro Women Queens County Section, the Women Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Young Life Jamaica.
“There are young moms in our backyard who are desperate for non-judgmental, caring adults, to walk into the cafeterias of their schools, their doctor’s appointments, their homes [and] their lives,” Young Life Jamaica Area Director Katrice Walker said. “Young Lives is partnering with Senator Comrie’s office in the hopes that we’d be able to bring a little more light and love into the lives of young mothers in our community.”
Comrie hopes to make the Community Baby Shower an annual event.
“The care and concern for our communities’ families we show today will resonate in our schools, in our neighborhoods and throughout our communities tomorrow,” Comrie said. “I am grateful to all those who understand the long-term vision this Community Baby Shower represents, and have donated their time, expertise and talents to this effort. I look forward to building upon this Community Baby Shower as we repeat this initiative for years to come.”