by Elsie Walker
One Saturday in February, the fellowship hall of the Stanhope United Methodist Church in Netcong was decked out with all the trappings needed for a baby shower. Tablecloths and centerpieces were in pink and blue. Baby shower word games were found at every table. Some baby clothes given as gifts were clipped on a clothesline hung between two poles. Other gifts were displayed in the front of the hall. There were plenty of “guests”. Every table was filled, and guests enjoyed a delicious luncheon. It was like other showers, except in this case, no one knew the mothers involved. The baby shower was for the residents of Birth Haven, an organization in Newton which provides shelter, support, and education to homeless, pregnant women and teens from New Jersey and the tri-state area. The church had made an open invitation to the community to join in the shower and donate new items to Birth Haven. An overnight supervisor from Birth Haven spoke briefly about the organization to those in attendance.
“I’m overwhelmed by the amount of love shown,” said Lynn Zaremba, pastor of the church in welcoming everyone to the shower. Zaremba noted the generosity reflected in the number of items donated, which included not only new items for the moms and their babies, but also supplies for Birth Haven, such as toilet paper and paper towels.
As they stood up by the gifts, Zaremba explained that the event was sponsored by the church group, The Angels of the Glen. The “glen” refers to the churches nickname: The Church in the Glen. The angels are part of the church’s nurture and outreach team. Zaremba later explained that Birth Haven had been chosen as a cause to help as one of the angels had had a good friend who passed away and that person had worked at Birth Haven. That put the organization on the angels’ “radar’.
As they played word games, one attendee noted that she had had a baby herself a few months ago, and when she saw the church’s Facebook page inviting the community to join in the drive for Birth Haven, she felt she had to bring something for the cause.
After the luncheon portion of the shower, Holly Tola, night supervisor at Birth Haven, came forward to briefly talk about what Birth Haven does and to field any questions people had.
“I can’t believe the turnout,” said Tola as she surveyed the room with people at every table. Then, turning to look at all the items donated, she said, “do you believe this?”
Birth Haven is a non-profit organization. It receives some funds through grants, but it is mainly funded by donations. Tola seemed overwhelmed by the number of items donated.
Tola shared that women and teens come to Birth Haven from a variety of situations. “A lot come with only the clothes on their back,” she said. Birth Haven can take up to nine moms and their babies. The mothers come at various stages of pregnancy and stay until six to eight weeks after giving birth.
“The girls coming [to Birth Haven] work on the goal of independence,” said Tola. She noted that while there, residents are taught life skills like cooking, balancing a check book, etc. Birth Haven provides the residents with transportation to work or school, if needed. “We are there for the girls in any way they need us,” said Tola. She also noted that the support is there 24 hours a day. Tola shared that as overnight supervisor, she cares for the girls at night, whether that is as someone to talk to, someone to give a ride to an appointment, or any other way she can help.
After Tola had talked to the group, Zaremba came up with a surprise. In addition to the items from the shower, there was one more gift. The Angels of the Glen had held a Spring Tea event and was donating $250 from it to Birth Haven.
More information on Birth Haven can be found at its website at www.birthhaven.org.