Getting ready for a new baby can be stressful, but a Dillsburg woman is doing her part to make sure mothers-to-be are ready when the big day arrives.
Margaret Kovacic recently marked the delivery of her 300th “Baby Bundle” to New Hope Ministries, a Christian social service agency with centers in Lemoyne, Mechanicsburg, Hanover, Dover, Dillsburg and New Oxford.
“The Baby Bundles are so thoughtful and such a blessing to the expecting families at New Hope. Margaret always takes time to hand-pick goodies for a sibling, too, and items that the mom can use, usually just what the mom wanted,” said Sue Fornicola, program director at New Hope Ministries.
The Baby Bundle story begins before Kovacic retired. She was in charge of family events for the company at which she worked, and thought it would be worthwhile to start a program for children. The result was a program called “Clothe A Child.” The program, which also provided food for the children’s families, enjoyed the support of the company and assistance from her fellow employees.
“We provided them with clothing for the first day of school and for Christmas. We did that for about 10 years, and we did thousands of children,” she said.
After retirement, Kovacic wanted to keep doing something to help the community, but no longer had a funding source. She remembers standing in her kitchen telling God he would have to show her a way if he wanted it to continue.
“And he absolutely has. I can get down to my last penny for this project, and somebody will come along and provide something to keep it going,” Kovacic said.
The Baby Bundles program started in 2001 in northeastern Pennsylvania and provided gifts for 2,150 babies by July 2011. Kovacic formed her partnership with New Hope Ministries when she moved to the Dillsburg area in July 2012. Since the 300th bundle was dropped off in late September, she’s delivered nearly two dozen more to the agency.
Standing over a bundle heading out to a soon-to-be mom in Mechanicsburg, Kovacic said she can’t even reach the bottom of an oversized Baby Bundle bag that was sent to her, appropriately enough for its size, from Texas.
“The thing that they’re most amazed at is how many things are in this bag,” Kovacic said.
Each bag of new items only is put together specifically for that family. They generally include diapers, wipes, a handmade afghan, receiving blankets, a fluffy blanket and eight to 10 outfits for the baby that are seasonally appropriate.
“I have quite an inventory, but I am a certified shopper so I only buy when things are on sale or I am getting a good deal,” Kovacic said with a smile. “When I go to Carter’s, they welcome me with open arms.”
Big brothers and sisters also receive a gift in the bundle. One recent bundle included a blanket full of images of trucks, cars and dinosaurs for a three-year-old boy about to become a big brother.
“We want them to be sure that they are still loved and they’re still part of the family. And we know that children like to get gifts,” Kovacic said.
A special canvas tote embroidered with the words “Mom’s Bag” usually contains a nightgown, slippers, lotions and a book for the mother to read to the baby. Kovacic said an application for a library card is also included to bundles going to York County locations to encourage moms to read to their children.
Kovacic tries to deliver each bundle a month before the baby’s due date so the mothers can be prepared and rest assured that they have the essentials before the baby is born. That may not always be a material need.
“Over the years I’ve done them, it’s not always a financial need. Sometimes it’s an emotional need. The mom just needs to know that somebody cares about her,” Kovacic said.
Kovacic only knows the basics about the families to which the Baby Bundles will be delivered as she’s wrapping and packing a bundle. She knows the mom’s first name, which center it should be sent to and the age of siblings awaiting the baby’s arrival.
Likewise, the moms don’t know Kovacic, but that doesn’t stop them from expressing their appreciation.
“I will very often get a thank you note that comes back through New Hope Ministries, and it will just be addressed to ‘the Baby Bundle lady,’” Kovacic said.
She’s also quick to point out there’s a network of friends that helps to gather what she needs for the bundles. A group of friends known as the Remnants have dedicated their monthly crochet meeting to afghans for the Baby Bundles. Other friends snap up bottle bags that are included in the bundles when they see them at Family Dollar.
“I just feel that I’ve been blessed to be able to do this. It offers other people an opportunity to help the community, too,” Kovacic said.