For more than a decade, an organization devoted solely to supporting families and their new babies has flourished across the greater Philadelphia region.
Aptly named The Baby Bureau, the once-small group of caring volunteers now provides “baby bundles” to thousands of underserved and at-risk babies, offering an extensive array of essentials every infant and toddler needs to thrive.
A typical bundle consists of a package of diapers, wipes, diaper cream, a board book, a baby toy and onesies and sleepers ranging in size from newborn to 2T. There are also 38 to 40 “seasonally appropriate” outfits, bibs, burp cloths, socks and a pair of shoes.
“In the winter, we try our best to include a winter coat and hat,” said Laurieann Tebben, The Baby Bureau’s executive director.
Blankets, many made with a heart in the center by the nonprofit’s knitting group, are added, too, said Tebben. “We want them to know how much the community loves and cares for them.”
The lovingly curated items are collected in a variety of ways, from clothing drives and donations to trips to thrift stores, said Tebben. A diverse group of volunteers that includes students and adults with special needs, National Honor Society members and those in the larger community, do much of the hands-on work of this unique operation.
From washing and drying every article of clothing, to sorting and packing bundles at the center’s highly organized headquarters on the Warminster campus of Abington-Jefferson Health, its committed volunteers drive the center’s success, said Tebben.
Tables neatly stacked with packaged diapers, an assortment of creams and cloths line one side of the room, while other areas are filled with bins of clothing, one section for boys and “neutral” and another for girls. There are shelves of board books, too. “It’s never too early to start reading to your baby,” Tebben noted.
As the bundles are filled, a large network of social services providers that has grown from one partnership in 2012 to 40 today, distributes the much-needed supplies to those struggling to get by.
While the Baby Bureau never meets those who benefit from their service, they do get messages from those who deliver the overflowing packages.
“The Baby Bundles have been a tremendous help to my clients!” wrote one. “The families I serve are underserved and at-risk. The bundle bag gives them hope in being able to provide for their new baby.”
Another said, “Many of our families do not have anything for their newborns. The mothers are tearful and appreciate these beautiful gift bags. They cannot get over everything that is included. Thank you!!”
Like many life-changing projects, The Baby Bureau started simply, born from seeing the lack of basic necessities for the most vulnerable among us.
Fran Wasserman founded the bureau in her living room in 2011 after returning from a trip to Buras, Louisiana, where she and her son went following Hurricane Katrina for his Bar Mitzvah project.
The Solebury resident said what she witnessed was profound.
“Everything was still destroyed,” said Wasserman of the 2006 trip. “It was devastating. They kept running out of things for babies, diapers, food, blankets. My bubble burst when I went to Louisiana.”
Still, as countless people, organizations, churches and others came together, Wasserman said, “I saw what a community can do to help… I knew I had to do this.”
By 2021, she said, “I was ready to step back. I’m a builder in my heart.”
The reins were passed on to Tebben and Chris Berkowitz, who took on the role of director of operations.
“I’m so honored that the work is being carried on. It’s a wonderful thing,” Wasserman said.
Both Tebben and Berkowitz said their passion for The Baby Bureau’s mission is one that gives them a sense of purpose and privilege, knowing they’re helping others.
“I was hooked the day I met Fran,” said Berkowitz, who coordinates the volunteers. “I was immediately drawn in to what she was doing. I love it.”
It doesn’t hurt, she added, that “you walk in and it smells like Dreft (laundry detergent) and Snuggle fabric softener.”
“I’ve loved babies all my life,” said Tebben, who first joined the nonprofit’s board of directors before becoming director.
“Our goal at The Baby Bureau is to help as many babies as possible receive what they need to thrive. I am extremely proud that our Baby Bundles bring joy and make life a little easier for the families that receive them.”
The Baby Bureau is planning a Nov. 12 fundraiser at Thunderbird Lanes on Street Road in Warminster. For $30, donors will get bowling and shoes from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and the chance to bid on raffle baskets and take part in a 50/50 drawing. For more information or to register, email Tebben at email@example.com.
This article has been supported by a grant from Foundations Community Partnership.