Silvia Menjivar sometimes had to borrow money to buy diapers and clothing for her four children, because she said the income from her factory job can’t always pay all her bills.
The Central Islip woman was relieved when a friend told her about the Mother and Child Ministry, a recently inaugurated program in Seaford that distributes food, toys, clothes and other items for babies and older children of struggling parents.
“I’m a single mom, and it really helps me,” Menjivar said in Spanish. “Now I have more money to pay the rent and buy more food.”
Officials at the Church of St. Jude, the Episcopal church in Wantagh that runs the program, believe the ministry is the first on Long Island that focuses on babies and toddlers.
“We were looking for something that would complement existing efforts of churches that have food pantries,” said program director Barbara Rice Thompson. “We wanted to fill in the blanks of what they were not focusing on.”
The Rev. Maxine Barnett of St. Jude said targeting babies and mothers in need “is a biblical thing, too, caring for the most vulnerable.”
Rebecca Sanin, president and chief executive of the Melville-based Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, said most pantries on Long Island do offer some baby items, although she’s unaware of other pantries here that focus on infants.
The weekly program started out serving one or two families in March, but as word has spread and other churches referred parents to the mission, it now helps 12 to 16 on a typical Thursday, Thompson said.
Shelves in the basement of Seaford’s St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church — where St. Jude houses the ministry — are lined with diapers, baby wipes, jars of pureed food and infant clothing donated by congregants of St. Jude and others.
After clients said they needed clothing for their older children as well, the ministry began collecting clothes in larger sizes, as well as adult toiletries, items typically not offered at food pantries.
Miriam Reyes, 34, of Wyandanch, said she used to buy the cheapest diapers she could find for her 2-year-old daughter, even though they caused rashes, because that’s all she could afford.
The rashes went away when she began using the better-quality donated diapers from the ministry, Reyes said in Spanish.
Reyes is a single mother raising three daughters on $250 a week. Half of her income goes to pay the $500 monthly rent for a room in a house.
She is the type of client the ministry is trying to reach, Thompson said: A parent with meager wages struggling to make ends meet on pricey Long Island.
“You can’t live on a minimum-wage job,” Thompson said.
Julio Galicia, 32, and his wife, Angela Ramirez, 28, of Brentwood, were there on a recent afternoon with their three boys, age 3 months, 4 and 9. Galicia can make up to $700 a week doing landscaping during a sunny summer week, but his income can drop to half that in the winter, when he supplements snow shoveling with work as a mechanic or “whatever I can do to make money.”
They said they’re grateful for the ministry.
“The [baby] formula for him is very expensive,” Galicia said, gesturing toward Julian, their baby. “Diapers are very expensive. This helps me a lot.”
Mother and Child Ministry
- Open from 4 to 7 p.m. every Thursday at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, 2197 Jackson Ave., Seaford.
- People can drop off donations then, or between 4 and 8 p.m. on Wednesdays.
- For more information on the ministry, call Church of St. Jude at 516-221-2505.