Helping new mothers ‘get everything they need for their kids’

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Saadya Elliott Dixon attended the Harper’s Heart event at Kingswood with her daughters, Sariyah, who is 3 years old, and Samiyah. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Saadya Elliott Dixon attended the Harper’s Heart event at Kingswood with her daughters, Sariyah, who is 3 years old, and Samiyah. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Expectant mothers and those with newborns face a multitude of challenges. Particularly when meeting an infant’s basic needs, the situation can be overwhelming.

One young Wilmington mother has made it her mission to help other women with some essential baby steps. She’s Giovanna Andrews, who became pregnant during her senior year of college. She went to a pregnancy crisis center and received advice that helped her decide to keep the baby. She also earned mommy dollars, coupons she used to buy items for her little girl, Isabella Harper.

The experience inspired Andrews, now 23, to start a nonprofit called Harper’s Heart.

Giovanna Andrews and her daughter Isabella Harper. Andrews started Harper’s Heart to help other mothers take care of their little ones. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

“We say, ‘If you have a child, if you are pregnant, come out and be around some other moms and talk, and pick up some items you may need,’’’ said Andrews, whose day job is in digital media. “It is incredible stress to prepare for that baby when you are pregnant. You are aching: Do I have enough diapers stockpiled in the closet?”

In just a year, Harper’s Heart has given away more than $20,000 worth of items, ranging from diapers and formula to booties and books and bibs. The charity has assisted more than 700 families.

Andrews said she receives donations from private donors and families across the country. She also has a baby registry list set up where donors can choose a specific item to donate to Harper’s Heart and have sent to Delaware.

The giveaways occur at events like the one at Kingswood Community Center in Northeast Wilmington. It attracted dozens of pregnant women and others with newborns or infants.

Among those who attended that August afternoon was Shae Thomas. The 22-year-old warehouse employee was due any day.

”What they are doing is beautiful. It’s open to everybody in the community that needs help or a little extra help with things,’’ Thomas said.

“Everything’s in here,” she added. “Clothes, diapers, wipes, household things to clean up with your newborn or your kids to help and be clean. Anything you can actually think of.”

Thomas wasn’t exaggerating.

There were onesies and other clothing for kids up to 2 years old. Winter coats. Booties and tiny sneakers. Formula. Books and bunnies. Pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups. Bibs and blankets. Soap, toilet paper and detergent. And lots of wipes and diapers. At Kingswood, six strollers were raffled off too.

Dozens of expectant mothers and women with newborns came to Kingswood Community Center in August for a giveaway by Harper’s Heart. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Getting some supplies was Saadiya Dixon of Wilmington, who has two daughters, one nearly 3 years old, the other just 3 months. Dixon works at a childcare center, and her partner is a dishwasher. They are trying to get their own apartment.

Dixon said Harper’s Heart helps struggling mothers like herself “get everything they need for their kids. Some people don’t have jobs or just lost their job, you know, don’t have anything. So it helps.”

Helping families ‘get a little more stable’

Carl Colantuono, of Salvation Army Delaware, said Andrews’ charity strengthens the safety net.

His organization provides mothers with shelter, assistance with utility bills and other needs, “but someone providing in-depth services for pregnant moms who are in need beyond the basics, that’s what this woman is doing and that’s a great thing,” he said.

Added Andrews: “So if you don’t have a thing, if you don’t have any money to go get those diapers, what are you going to do?… This is providing families with an outlet to be able to say, ‘I can go on. I can go on for the next month.'”

City Council President Hanifa Shabazz, a champion of grassroots efforts to bolster needy neighborhoods, agreed.

“So filling in some of those blanks there helps the family get a little more stable so that they can be good providers, they can be good contributors to the community, and don’t have to resort to doing other things to survive,” Shabazz said.

But the bottom line for Andrews is helping women with what she calls the “simple things,” to make life less complicated.

The Harper’s Heart giveaway in August at the Kingswood Community Center in northeast Wilmington drew dozens of expectant mothers and women with newborns, along with their families. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

“So I know it might look like I’m doing something small. I’m just giving you some stuff. I’m not counseling you,’’ she said.

“But I know that those items I’m giving you are impacting your life, and I know that because I’ve been on the receiving end,” she added.” Where I didn’t have anything and those pair of socks means the world to me. That onesie means the world to me.

“And I know that I can give that feeling back to another mom, to another family.”

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