On a cold Fall day, Caroline walked into the local office of a well-known charity in New York City in desperate need of one item: diapers.
Although careful with her spending, Caroline was stretched thin financially supporting three young children on her own and simply could not afford another package of diapers and wipes. She hoped that, this one time, the charity could help her out for the next few weeks.
A few minutes later, Caroline left the office empty-handed and in tears. Unable to provide the requisite paperwork, the charity turned her away.
Desperate and without any other options, Caroline emailed Bundles of Joy.
Caroline, who is in her mid-20s, grew up in the Dominican Republic in a stable, loving family. However, two years ago she found herself fleeing her home country to escape an abusive boyfriend. With two young children, a son and a daughter, she left for the United States, knowing no one. Hoping to start a new life, she entered into a new relationship a few months later. Unfortunately, her new boyfriend was abusive as well and, a few months later, she found herself escaping another domestic situation. A local shelter arranged for her to be transferred to a shelter in New York along with her two kids. Alone and even farther away from her home country, Caroline was terrified.
“It was a scary time and I don’t fully remember most of the traveling,” Caroline says. “The uncertainty was giving me panic attacks and I was worried and anxious. I was afraid of losing my children and I could not believe I had them go through all this.”
Shortly thereafter, Caroline’s life would change dramatically once again: she was pregnant with her third child. “I was in shock knowing I was pregnant from the abuser,” Caroline says.
Caroline credits the shelter, which provided her with counseling and therapy as she dealt with her pregnancy and post-traumatic stress.
But shelter life was still incredibly difficult.
Caroline and her kids moved from one shelter to the next. Although grateful for a roof over her head and how the shelter provided blankets, utensils and basic food for her family, tenants like Caroline were expected to apply for public assistance and navigate the myriad appointments, meetings and paperwork on her own.
With food stamps, Caroline was able to provide food for her children, although every month she cut it close. With clothes and cleaning supplies however, she often ran out of money, as the shelter did not provide these items. Even after carefully budgeting and not spending outside what she was allotted, Caroline often had to make sacrifices.
“I only buy the stuff I need last when I know my children have what they need,” she says.
In a bind
Caroline gave birth to a baby girl in September. Although a happy and healthy baby, Caroline found herself in even more of a financial bind. She looked forward to the day where she could work to provide for her family and move out of the shelter, but during this transition time, the constant stress of her family’s situation led to anxiety and depression.
“I was feeling sad because I felt like I wasn’t able to provide for them,” Caroline says. “The winter and cold was horrible. I wanted the baby to have at least the basics, but I only had a onesie for my baby and nothing else for her.”
She was also faced with another harsh reality: diapers are expensive.
She hoped that a local office of a nationally-known charity would be able to help her find diapers, but she was turned away. “They asked for birth certificates and lease agreement,” Caroline says. “I told them I was in a shelter and they said they could not help me. I was so stressed and worried about my baby. I walked back to the shelter, which took an hour, because I didn’t even have money for the MetroCard. The baby was in the carrier crying, and I started crying.”
When Caroline got home she emailed Bundles of Joy, who reached out to a network of Joymakers in the City. A very special mom gave Caroline boxes of diapers that her son outgrew. She left them with her doorman so that Caroline could pick them up later that night.
The help came at a perfect time.
“It gave me so much anxiety and frustration not knowing how to get diapers and basics,” says Caroline. “The help that Bundles of Joy provided was immeasurable.”
Today Caroline is prepared for another move, this time to the Midwest. However, the occasion is a happier one this time – she has housing lined up and a job opportunity. An opportunity to start fresh and raise her three children in a happier environment. Her youngest, now seven months old, is growing fast and cared for with the products provided by Bundles of Joy. Although still stressful, these essentials are one less thing Caroline has to worry about.
Caroline’s experience in New York left such an impression on her that someday she hopes to one day pay it forward and start a similar organization wherever she ends up.
Here to Help
Many people don’t know that shelters don’t provide essentials such as diapers and wipes, and that charities oftentimes turn down requests for these items. Many times, parents like Caroline are often left choosing between rationing diapers and using less suitable alternatives. Unfortunately, Caroline’s story is not unique. There are countless other stories like hers in the New York area and around the country.
This is why we started Bundles of Joy: to provide the essentials needed to help mothers and babies thrive, no questions asked, in their hour of need.
To help more moms like Caroline, please consider donating here.
*Names and locations were changed to protect the identity of all individuals