Having raised five children, Joan Hass is well aware of how tightly resources can get stretched when little bundles of joy appear on the scene.
"I remember that my husband had a good job and still, we struggled. It’s an overwhelming thing, I’m sure, if you’re a single mother," she said, explaining her empathy for the women — and, in many instances, teenage girls — served by Birthright of Ithaca.
Hass teams up with Carolyn Montague to coordinate a yearly effort at their parish, All Saints in Lansing, that produces homemade blankets and other baby-related items for Birthright. The initiative reaches its peak on Mother’s Day — which this year falls on May 11 — when the creations are put on display at the church. Hass and Montague then deliver them all to Birthright, a crisis-pregnancy agency located at 605 W. State St. in nearby Ithaca.
Requests for needlework begin going out shortly after the new year so knitters can busy themselves during what Hass termed "kind of the quiet months" leading up to Mother’s Day. Whereas many knitters provide their own materials, a tub of yarn also is made available at the All Saints parish center. The knitters work independently without a formal meeting ever being held; most of the items are dropped off at All Saints just before Mother’s Day weekend.
"It’s amazing, the colors and styles. It just makes you feel very good," Montague said.
"They can turn out to be very colorful blankets," Hass added.
The organizers welcome not only blankets but also such knitted and crocheted creations as bibs, towels, cloths, booties and sweaters. Last year more than 40 such products were brought to Birthright — so many, in fact, that the agency’s director, Mary Camobreco, ended up redistributing a number of them to Birthright outlets in other communities that were glad to have them.
"It’s just grown and grown," Montague said of her parish’s effort, which began approximately 10 years ago. "We may have up to 60 handmade items by (the upcoming) Mother’s Day."
Hass noted that the All Saints project grew out of an annual Mother’s Day flower-sale fundraiser that is conducted for Birthright at numerous churches in the Tompkins County vicinity. Montague, who performs volunteer laundry duty at Birthright of Ithaca, observed that whereas the agency certainly welcomes store-bought goods for donation, handmade products hold a special distinction.
"They’re something that people took their time to make, something personal," she said. "You know that somebody cares."
Montague added that All Saints parishioners further aid Birthright by donating gently used children’s clothing and strongly supporting the sale of Mother’s Day flowers.
"We always sell them out. It’s just an amazing parish," she said.
"All Saints has been so good to us from the day we opened," remarked Camobreco, who has served as volunteer director for the local Birthright since it opened in 1981. She is a parishioner of Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception Church.
Birthright International, founded in 1968, has several locations across the Diocese of Rochester. Camobreco said the existence of such an organization is vital because of the nonjudgmental assistance it lends for women who are choosing life for their unborn children, even though they may be facing such hardships as being deserted by the baby’s father or kicked out of the house by their parents.
Hass and Montague agreed that young women should be supported, rather than shunned, for deciding to go through with a pregnancy.
"We should be about helping to fill that need," Hass said.
"They choose life, when it’s so simple these days not to," Montague added, referring to abortions. "It’s not a convenient thing."