GAWDA Gives Back To Community Closet

Since 2000, GAWDA members have given back almost $1M to help those less fortunate. This year, newborns get help.

Bare Necessities
Imagine being born into a home where the means to meet your most basic needs are lacking. Visualize a mother who has no formula to feed her crying baby, no diapers to swaddle the child and no clothing or blankets to keep the newborn warm. In Maui, Hawaii, this is the reality for many of the island’s disadvantaged families. The state’s oldest and largest private, nonprofit human service organization is working to prevent such a travesty. Child and Family Service (CFS) has launched a program known as “Community Closet” to provide essential supplies for newborn babies.

1a_huggiesGAWDA members will have an opportunity to help some of these less fortunate families as the Community Closet has been named the 2010 recipient of GAWDA Gives Back. GAWDA President Jenny McCall and her husband Chris were drawn to the charity because of their love for children. “We can’t stand the thought of a child being neglected or abused,” says McCall. “Child and Family Service and the Community Closet program bring hope and health while providing prevention, intervention and treatment for those in need.”

The Community Closet was created in March 2009 when staff members from the CFS office in Maui observed a disturbing pattern. “What usually is a fun time for many expectant mothers was not for our pregnant clients,” notes Sheri Daniels, administrator of the Maui office. Many of her clients were so ill-prepared that the staff began putting together care packages to help meet the increasing need for basic baby care items. Initially, it was the staff that donated clothing and other essential items.

1b_huggies2The clients served by the Community Closet are struggling to provide resources for their families for a number of reasons. Many are single moms who have multiple children to care for and they can’t stretch their budgets any further; others are victims of a bad economy and can’t find work; and some find themselves in a situation where they are caring for someone else’s child. Daniels recounts the story of a young child whose parents were incarcerated and the child’s caregiver passed away unexpectedly. An older couple, who were friends of the caregiver, stepped in to care for the young child. With a limited income and a lack of knowledge about how to take care of the child, the couple came to Community Closet asking for assistance. “We put together a kit of supplies for them, helped them figure out a budget and provided them with some rice and other food items. The woman was so thankful she began to cry,” says Daniels. “It’s a big step to ask for help. At the end of the day, it’s not just about the material goods we give to them; it’s that we can make an impact and help without being judgmental. I always say, it’s not a hand down, but a hand up.”

Hawaii is a small state and a close-knit community with generations of families. Throughout the state there is a saying: `Ike aku, `ike mai, kokua aku, kokua mai, pela iho la ka nohana `ohana­­, which means “Recognize, be recognized, help others, receive help; that is the lifestyle of the family.” 1c_clothesDaniels believes everybody knows someone who needs a hand. “It could be a family member, a neighbor, an employee or a friend. We need to help raise healthy communities, and if we can continue to give back and support our community, we will continue to be healthy.”

The Maui CFS office has been providing services to families on the island since 1992. Many of its clients have a lower economic status and limited access to education. The programs offered have an emphasis on strengthening families and helping clients to develop skills that will create a safe and stable home for children. In 2009 alone, 1,529 clients on Maui were directly served by CFS. Over 13,000 more were impacted through presentations and community health fairs, and another 25,000 individuals were reached by mailed materials and Public Service Announcements.

Through the generosity of GAWDA members, the Community Closet program will not only focus on filling the growing requests for baby essentials, but it will also meet the demand for other resources, including school supplies, personal hygiene items and clothing. GAWDA will establish a line of credit through a local retailer so the program can purchase items such as diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, blankets and car seats. In addition to monetary gifts, GAWDA members are welcome to bring new baby outfits to this year’s convention, which will be presented to the Community Closet along with GAWDA’s donation.


Gases and Welding Distributors Association