Changing the world . . . one diaper at a time
By Stacie Donaldson
East Wichita News
Published April 2011
“Being a mom is difficult,” says Renee Scott. A mother of four herself, Renee knows it’s hard work. She has a heart for helping other moms, and in 2002 she and her team founded The Treehouse-a non-profit organization designed to “provide moms and babies with compassionate physical and emotional support and positive Christian relationships.”
It’s cute clothing for infants and toddlers (and moms-to-be) mixed with a passion for meeting needs. Working with other agencies, The Tree-house found their niche in being able to meet the physical needs of local moms (who are referred by other agencies) by providing diapers, formula, baby clothes, and other baby items, and also, offering educational programs and emotional and spiritual support.
“Partnering” seems to sum up much of what happens at The Treehouse. Community agencies partner regularly with The Treehouse, referring women to the caring staff and volunteers. The Treehouse staff partners with the moms to assess the needs and provide for them. The staff may then partner with other agencies, making referrals to dental or medical clinics, job or educational resources, on behalf of a mom. But perhaps the best example of partnering is seen in the growing relationships between the moms themselves.
“It’s a beautiful process,” says Renee, of watching the relationships develop. One of the most exciting pieces is to see moms begin to give back to the organization. “When we started, people told us no one would give back, and not to even expect it,” she says. But it happens all the time. One mom who received a layette when her baby was born thanked The Treehouse recently by donating 15 tiny infant hats she’d crocheted by hand. Moms shopping in the thrift store hear other moms asking about particular items (highchairs, cribs, etc.), and share with each other items they’re no longer using. Others trade free babysitting.
Renee was also told that few, if any, mothers would ever attend the classes she planned to offer. Apparently, though, no one told the moms that. Last year, The Treehouse logged over 1,450 individual program visits. Part of their classroom success lies in their incentive program.
Moms can earn “Baby Bucks” by attending classes or watching parenting videos and completing assigned homework. The Baby Bucks can then be used to purchase clothing, diapers, or other items in the thrift store. Baby Bucks might be the initial “spark” to encourage attendance, but once these moms start coming, they realize there’s much more to gain than just free diapers.
Classes cover a wide range of subjects–medical and nutritional information, dealing with domestic violence or substance abuse, parenting skills, spiritual guidance, and even tax preparation.
Genia Cooper, a single mom with two older children, faced an unexpected pregnancy at age 38. She had recently lost her job and found herself on her own. “What am I going to do?” Genia remembers wondering. She was referred to The Treehouse, and immediately felt loved and accepted by the staff and volunteers. “I came here,” she says, “and I realized, ‘I’m not the only one.'”