Baby bottles prove to be a valuable tool in promoting life

‘Crazy fun’ fundraiser at St. Mary in Johnson City benefits Catholic Charities’ pregnancy help centers                         

By Emily Booker

What better way to promote life than through a fundraiser using baby bottles during Respect Life Month? And who better to assist in the fundraiser than Catholic Charities of East Tennessee?

The Respect Life Committee at St. Mary Church in Johnson City motivated the entire parish to get involved in pro-life activities. Since October was Respect Life Month, the committee used that time to bring more awareness and raise donations for pro-life issues.

“It seemed like the perfect month to reflect on the value of life from conception through the elderly,” said Carolyn Merriman of the church’s Respect Life Committee. “We had different posters that we had up throughout the month that reflected that, too, in English and Spanish. The [campaign] backdrop was our posters that showed children and elders hugging each other and Pope Francis embracing a child. We tried to make it very comprehensive.”

The committee conducted a baby-bottle fundraiser to support pregnancy help centers run by Catholic Charities of East Tennessee. The centers provide counseling, parenting classes, medical and legal referrals, and other assistance for couples and individuals.

According to Ms. Merriman, who spearheaded the drive, “The three different umbrellas under our Respect Life Committee were prayer, service, and education. For the service part, we thought that one of the things that we could do was a fundraiser for the pregnancy help center.”

The committee handed out 400 baby bottles to parishioners, youth group members, and students at St. Mary School. “We had a team of people at every Mass that handed them out, and it was crazy and fun,” Ms. Merriman said.

Throughout October, people filled the bottles with change. Although 400 bottles were handed out, more than 500 were returned. The amount raised will be announced when the committee presents the money to Catholic Charities in January.

Other groups joined in making the fundraiser a success. The Knights of Columbus donated prayer cards to the drive.

“With every baby bottle we had a prayer card in either English or Spanish so that they could reflect on pro-life issues while they were collecting money through the month,” Ms. Merriman explained.

The committee also collaborated with the St. Vincent de Paul Society to hold a baby clothing and diaper drive. The volunteers set up a playpen in the church’s gathering area where people could donate baby clothes, diapers, wipes, and other items.

The collected items will be donated locally through the Agape Center and the health department. Mary Meeks, who helped with the drive, added, “We’re letting people who come to our food pantry on a monthly basis know that if they have children and they have needs that they would be eligible for some items.”

“We tried to get the whole parish involved, from kids to everybody,” Ms. Merriman said. The committee did not set a specific amount of dollars as a goal but rather focused on getting the entire parish to work together on the project.

“This was just kind of a leap of faith, the fact that this committee worked with the Knights and then St. Vincent de Paul to get the baby diapers and stuff,” Ms. Merriman said. “We’re also trying to build community within, among different ministries, the youth group, CCD, and the school. So it was like a collaborative effort of everyone coming together.”■

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