Pregnancy Resource Center becomes relief point after Ike

GALVESTON?The Pregnancy and Parenting Support Center serving Galveston County is trying to raise more than $20,000 to purchase 500 cars seats for the smallest victims of the biggest storm to hit this island in over a century.

Center Director Christy Anne Dickson said amidst all of the aid and support flowing into Galveston, the babies and infants of more than 900 mothers have not received much needed, age-specific care.

“The needs have been horrendous,” Dickson said from a small, white clapboard chapel building serving as a temporary registration and distribution point for the ministry, which is part of the North American Mission Board’s network of pregnancy resource centers and is affiliated with Galveston Baptist Association. The center’s Galveston office took in eight feet of water when Hurricane Ike surged onto the island Sept. 13.

This is the fourth time since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina that the PPSC has transformed from a counseling and support center for pregnant women to a relief organization. But the personal devastation from this past storm has been, by far, the worst Dickson has seen.

“We never dreamed how overwhelming this need would be,” she said. Of those registering for assistance for their children, Dickson said 90-95 percent have lost everything they owned.

Following the storm, food and shelter for displaced families were provided by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and other charitable organizations. Those support systems, though appreciated, Dickson said, met the basic needs of children and adults but was lacking in the care of babies and toddlers. The Red Cross tent shelter, for example, had cots but no cribs. And the homes filled with extra family members left homeless by the storm had infants sleeping on couches or the floor.

Dickson pointed out that babies need formula, baby food, diapers, wipes, proper bedding and portable play centers. She said some rocking chairs, baby swings and portable cribs and play pens were donated to the Red Cross tent shelter but the need for such items is still great throughout the county.

And transporting babies and infants in cars has been made risky with the loss of car seats. Galveston residents who evacuated on buses provided by the county and state were limited to what they could take. Car seats were not allowed. Families returned to houses and apartments ruined by the flood waters and all baby furnishings destroyed. As state law requires children under the age of five and less than 36 inches in height be restrained in a car seat, Dickson said collecting and distributing the seats is a high priority.

“We have women coming to us in tears because police are ticketing them,” she said.

Dickson addressed the issue with the Galveston Police Department and the two agencies are working together resolve the problem. Now, when police stop a vehicle for a car seat violation, Dickson said instead of a ticket officers will give the driver a card instructing them how they can contact the PPSC and register to receive a new, free car seat.

While registering for the car seats, mothers can also sign-up for relief help from the PPSC. Dickson said the ministry is committed to the long-term effort of providing moms with the essential supplies for caring for their children. When moms first register they go home with a baby bag filled with care supplies and can return two days later to pick up a bag of baby and infant clothing.

The moms can then return once a week for supplies of diapers, wipes, food and formula. Dickson said the center will take registration through mid-November for women with newborns through children 3 years of age. Dickson anticipates care for the families will continue into January when the city’s infrastructure is expected to be operational. As of late October, Dickson said more then 900 women, representing approximately 1,300 infants, have registered for relief.

Dickson reported that the women asking for help run the gamut of the socio-economic spectrum. Although the former Galveston center stands in the midst of eight housing projects and served many of the women from those facilities, Hurricane Ike has been the great equalizer. Many of the women were self-sufficient and helped provide for their families but the storm took not only their personal possessions but their means of earning a living.

One such client is America Maldenado. She lost her job in a Galveston dental office when the facility was flooded. Although she has been assured by her employer that her job is secure when the office is up and running again, Maldenado was without a paycheck until the unemployment checks began coming in. In the meantime, Maldenado and her husband were not only caring for their 1-year-old son but several other family members who had moved into their Texas City home after their homes were damaged or destroyed in the storm.

After registering for unemployment, Maldenado was trying to leave the crowded facility but was stopped in her tracks by a line of women that led to a table where the Parenting and Pregnancy Support Center was taking registrations. It wasn’t long after she signed up for support that Maldenado began volunteering for the organization.

In order to remain eligible for the relief unemployment, Maldenado said she was required to spend 30 hours a week looking for a job. The task was overwhelming due in part to the fact that there was only one vehicle being used by all 12 people staying in her home. She also viewed the task as pointless as she would be returning to her job, hopefully, by January. She did not want to get hired only to have to quit when she returned to the dental office. So she asked her case worker if she could perform community service in lieu of a job search. The request was approved and Maldenado knew where she wanted to give her time.

“I know what it’s like to need the help. What little money I had went to other needs.” She enjoys the work at the PPSC so much she hopes to continue volunteering once she returns to her job. Dickson has been grateful for Maldenado’s help because she is able to communicate with the center’s Spanish-speaking clients.

Dickson said indispensable support for the relief ministry has come from a sister pregnancy center in Lake Jackson. PPSC takes orders each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the Galveston church and faxes half of the requests to the Lake Jackson office. Orders are filled Tuesday and Thursday and brought to Galveston Wednesday and Friday by Lake Jackson volunteers. One delivery from Lake Jackson included “MREs for baby”?brown paper sacks filled by a group of kindergartners with an assortment of juice and baby food. Dickson said all the requests could never be filled without the help of their partner agency.

Other assistance has come from churches like one in Eastland, which in late October was preparing to ship 14 pallets of diapers and wipes to the center.

Dickson said she hopes individuals and churches across Texas will support the relief ministry. The center has made a long-term commitment to the mothers and their babies and will need the support of Christians across the state to meet those needs. She recommended Sunday School classes “adopt” a baby and take up a donation to cover the $41 cost for the car seats.

Any donations are welcome but monetary contributions for the car seats and related disaster relief must be designated as such. In the memo portion of the check indicate disaster relief. To contribute, checks may be made payable to CPSC, P.O. Box 164, Texas City, TX 77592. The Pregnancy and Parenting Support Center can be reached at 409-945-2888 or cpctxcty@swbell.net.

TEXAN Correspondent
Bonnie Pritchett
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