Bringing life into this world is no easy feat. But after enduring months of pregnancy and giving birth comes the real challenge: caring for a newborn.
With all the love, hope and happiness a baby can bring when they finally make their debut, they can also bring stress, sleep deprivation and a huge financial burden, especially for those who had hardships before or during pregnancy. To bring some relief in these situations, the Black Dads for Life group and Councilwoman Chauna Banks are teaming up to create My Baby’s Closet, a resource center for new parents to get baby necessities like diapers, wipes, formula and more.
“We really wanted to do something within the community to support women and children, especially in the early onset of life,” says Robert Sensley, Black Dads for Life program coordinator. “So through the closet, we’ll be providing baby supplies directly to locals, hopefully filling those gaps within our area.”
Sensley understands the importance of a space like this, being the son of a single mother who faced financial hardships for years, and now being a father of three. He recalls how his mother once had aspirations to become an interior designer but put her dreams on pause so she could properly provide for Sensley and his siblings.
“When she shared this with me, it hit me like a ton of bricks,” he says. “I remember her carrying me in her arms to my grandmother’s house before catching the bus to work, and I now realize it’s because she didn’t have a stroller. I see people walking with small children and think, ‘What’s going to be the future for that child,’ not being able to imagine a prosperous outcome. It still amazes me that I was that child at one point, coming from such a hopeless place, and never even knowing that about myself while growing up.”
His personal history is one of the major reasons behind the start of this new resource center. “We want to let these women know that there is hope in any situation,” Sensley says. It’s not just mothers who’ll need these resources, though, and he notes the group’s desire for fathers to utilize the closet as well, hoping to also develop relationships with them.
“Black Dads for Life works to support, equip and educate dads on all the different aspects of fatherhood,” he says. “You may not have grown up with a dad, but you can still be a great dad.”
Sensley and his team also expect My Baby’s Closet to be a unifying cause, impacting the community in yet another positive way.
“We may have different political points of view, but for the most part, people can rally behind taking care of a child,” he says. “We don’t have to agree on all things, but we can agree on that.”
In the future, the My Baby’s Closet team hopes to expand the resource center’s model by placing closets in various community centers and churches across Baton Rouge. After starting the resource center in Scotlandville, Sensley learned how different parts of the city are underserved.
“Parents must figure out how to get to us, and we don’t want it to be an added chore or obstacle just to get to where they can be served,” he says.
While Sensley, Banks and their respective groups have gotten the closet up and running, it’s up to the community to see the project through. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and they’re hoping Baton Rouge can come together to help the parents and children most in need.
To coordinate a donation drop-off or a baby supply pick-up, My Baby’s Closet, located inside the Jewel J. Newman Community Center, can be reached at 1-888-816-1032.