A new service program organized and run by St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church is helping Orange County families with infants and young children—and the St. Margaret’s school community has rallied around the effort.
The Infant Pantry launched last summer, after St. Margaret’s Epsicopal Church leaders brainstormed new ways to help the local community. The Reverend Canon Robert Edwards, head of chaplains at St. Margaret’s, as well as Church vestry members John Harms and Cheryl Famili, met with several organizations, including Father Serra’s Pantry and Family Assistance Ministries, to observe and ask questions about needs in the community.
The Church leaders then thought about Padres Unidos, a St. Margaret’s-affiliated non-profit group of community workers who are committed to serving low-income families in Orange County through a variety of child, youth and family services.
“Padres Unidos families have children that are around 3 or 4 years old when they come in here,” said Mrs. Famili, who is also a parent of a St. Margaret’s alumna. “Father Rob asked, ‘What could we do for these families at earlier ages?’ The idea took off from there.”
The program started by assessing the needs of families with infants—namely diapers of different sizes, formula for different ages, wipes, nursing pads, diaper rash cream and more. “We just looked at what needs were out there for these families,” Mrs. Famili said.
Once the Infant Pantry program officially launched and prepared for its first distribution event in September, St. Margaret’s Episcopal School’s service-learning team was quick to adopt it as an official service partner, and students and teachers in all divisions reached out to offer assistance.
Four advisories—one in each Upper School grade—designated the Infant Pantry as their yearlong service partner
, and have spent their service-learning blocks organizing donations, labeling inventory, and even promoting the program through the creation of signage, social media posts and other communications.
In addition, an Innovation Block mini-course
taught by Jackie Swaidan is dedicated to learning the skill of knitting, and students are making stocking hats, blankets and scarves to distribute to Infant Pantry families.
The outreach goes beyond the Upper School, too. The Middle School service-learning elective classes have hand-written prayer cards that are distributed with donations, and grade 3 families put together Thanksgiving food boxes which were distributed with other Infant Pantry donations in November.
“We are extremely excited and grateful for the support of the St. Margaret’s students,” Father Rob said. “They have brought ingenuity, enthusiasm and creativity that has helped us grow this program and reach even more families.”
In addition, St. Margaret’s organized a schoolwide donation drive in December, as those attending the Lessons and Carols extravaganza
were encouraged to bring blankets, hats, mittens, books, food and formula. The St. Margaret’s community delivered with much-needed donations ahead of the pre-holiday December distribution, including more than 80 containers of formula, 40 containers of baby wipes and 70 blankets.
St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church has seen an uptick in the number of families that have been served since starting monthly distribution events in September. In the program’s first four distributions, more than 250 families and close to 400 infants were served, including many active-duty military families stationed in Camp Pendleton.