Warding Off the Blues with a Benefit Brunch

I start to feel this way around this time every year.  I have a hard time putting a label on this feeling, but it is distinct.  Lucky, grateful, and oh so excessive are a few emotions that play into it.  The Fall always seems to breed this, with one holiday after another – lots of food and gifts abound.  In my house, even more than many.  We have Halloween, and then two weeks later my daughter’s birthday.  Two weeks after that is Thanksgiving, and somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas falls Hanukkah (my family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas).  All this adds up to create an overabundance of food and overabundance of gifts.  And this always leads me to think about the majority of the world and how this is not a reality for most people.  I could let this send me into a depression which during a gray Pittsburgh winter is hard to emerge from.  I tried this a few times – not pretty.  Or I could do something about it.  But what?  That is where I get stuck.

A few years back I started hosting monthly benefit brunches.  I was inspired by a young, punk friend of mine who had two jobs and two young kids.  She still found time to host a brunch to raise money for an organization supplying prisoners with books.  I loved the idea – people getting together to eat and socialize – and donate a bit of money (just about what they might pay for the same meal in a restaurant) to go to a good cause.  So I tried it.  It worked so well, and was so much fun, that I decided to make it a regular event.  I picked a new beneficiary each month.  I got some information about the organization of the month and placed it by a collection basket.  Then I invited friends over, explaining that a $10-20 donation was recommended and would go to the organization.  I cooked simple foods and we had a brunch party.  It was great fun, and most months we raised somewhere between $200-$500.

My benefit brunches dropped off about a year ago – busy lives and schedules.  But this time of year always makes me nostalgic for them.  So I am committing to hosting some more.  My ‘flavor of the month’?  Global Links’ Baby Bag project. And instead of, or in addition to, donating money, people can donate new baby clothes.

Global Links’ baby bag initiative was born of a conversation with the medical staff at a hospital in Nicaragua.  They were interested in distributing baby supplies to pregnant women in order to encourage them to come in for prenatal check-ups and attended deliveries.  In countries where the maternal/infant mortality rate is high, this is a huge step toward saving lives.  In response to this, and with international partners’ input, Global Links designed a mother/baby bag program.  The baby bags are sewn by volunteers, and filled with products that country partners have requested.  The Baby Bags are given to new mothers after they give birth with supplies to care for their babies at home.

So, I see this as my preemptive way to ward off the seasonal blues.  We can still have the food and the socializing, but do we need ALL the gifts?  How about just filtering a bit of the money you might spend anyway, and while eating and socializing, put it toward a good cause this holiday season?  Maybe you want to try and host something for your friends too?


“A Kiss and a Hug” for this group of Baby Bag Packers

On the evening of Monday November 5, twelve people gathered around the table at Global Links for a little feast, a little wine … and a whole lotta baby bags. Global Links had a serious need for baby clothes to complete our New Baby bags – handmade bags filled with supplies for new mothers and babies. The contents of the bags have been determined in consultation with our partner hospitals in the countries where we ship the bags, and are used by hospitals as an incentive for mothers to come in for prenatal care and attended deliveries – both of which save lives.  We couldn’t ship any bags until we had more clothes.

Each of the guests brought three new baby outfits apiece – 15 pounds of baby clothes. Together, they packed 57 bags and listened to a presentation from Program Officer Marisol Valentin, who read a thank you note from a mother in Cuba who had received one of the bags.  “I send you a kiss and a hug to thank you with all my heart,” the note concluded.

The packers, four of whom are long-term Global Links volunteers, understand how the bags are a valuable tool to improve Maternal/Infant mortality – a special focus of Global Links. Thanks to their efforts, we can make this tool available to a hospital in Haiti that requested them in our next donation there.

Find out more about Global Links New Baby Collection, and all the different ways you can get involved.

The baby bag crew, clockwise starting on the left: Cecelia Brissett, Roberto Briceño, Barbara Reichbaum, Carol Reichbaum, Theresa Scheiffarth, Chris Miller, Gwen Thesen,
Marcie Barent, Sabine Scheiffarth, Luise Davis, Jack Reamak, Marcia Brissett


Devoting an Evening to Maternal/Infant Health

“If I was a new mother, needing these supplies,” said Barbara Reichbaum, a longtime regular Global Links volunteer, “I would be happy to receive the bag with even a portion of the contents.” Barbara and her fellow “case packers” had just learned that the only reason Global Links was unable to ship more baby bags was that we did not have enough baby clothes. Wanting to ensure that all recipients would receive some baby clothes in their bags, the case packers decided to take action, and planned a baby shower/clothing drive to complete the bags for an upcoming donation to La Croix Health Center in Haiti.

Case packers come in regularly to check, count, label and pack materials that arrive in cases. It is a big job, and this dedicated crew is vital to the functioning of Global Links.

The baby bag project was inspired by a hospital Global Links worked with in Nicaragua, which provided bags of essentials as an incentive for mothers to come in for prenatal care and a medically attended delivery. Global Links consulted with medical personnel in the countries where we work to devise a list of appropriate items to include in the bags. A quilter in Ann Arbor, Michigan, designed a sturdy, all purpose bag and made hundreds of them herself before helping to assemble easily followed instructions for other volunteers to follow.  The bags are designed to have a long and useful life after the baby is born.

Global Links plans to send 100 bags to La Croix, each bag containing the same carefully chosen items.  “We believe these bags help encourage mothers to deliver in the safe environment of the Maternity Center,” the staff at La Croix wrote.

Good prenatal and obstetric care can save lives. Global Links New Baby bags can help.








Barbara, left, and the rest of the case pack crew: Ann, Louise, Sabine and Marcie.

Please support of Maternal/Infant health. To find out how to host your own Baby Shower for Global Links, email Stacy Bodow.