Home Page Home Page Events Events Photos Photos Diocese of Ogdensburg Home Page  
Follow Us on Facebook

Archives ‘A listening ear’ to promote learning, love
Plattsburgh Birthright establishes relationships with women, families it serves

May 8, 2024

By Mary Beth Bracy,
consecrated virgin
Contributing Writer

Birthright in Plattsburgh continues to attract numerous women – and families – in need.

The organization is staffed by caring volunteers who offer free, personal, and confidential assistance, including Marsha Brean, Vanessa Roberts, and Tammy Irwin. They shared about their work in the popular “Earn While You Learn” program and Blessings Boutique, along with the many other resources that they offer.

“Birthright supplies new moms who are in need; we can help direct them with services and clothing. We provide free pregnancy tests and are able to make referrals for services not provided,” Brean, a Birthright volunteer for three years, explained. “Coming to Birthright is very much ‘a retreat’ for women in need. They are met at the door with a smile and ‘What can we do for you?’ We love them both – it’s a support for the mom and the baby, spouses and whoever are included to help the mom. It doesn’t stop after you have the baby.”

Roberts, who has volunteered at Birthright for six years, revealed what makes their organization unique.

“The premise to Birthright is original – that people wanted to develop relationships with people coming in here,” she said. “We would be a listening ear, not to judge them but to be here for them.”

Brean has assisted with the “Earn While You Learn” program for about a year and a half.

“It can start from the moment the woman knows she’s pregnant and can go to toddler age (three or four, in that vicinity),” Brean said. “It starts pre-partum and helps women understand what is going on with their bodies, with all the nuances. There are some references to medicine but we don’t get into anything where they need a doctor. It helps with the transition to being a mom.”

Brean said volunteers meet with the women for about an hour once a week.

“Each individual video program lasts about 20 minutes,” she said. “There are multiple classes on one DVD. We give women choices of topics and subject matters. Anything you might need to figure out, ‘How am I going to handle this?,’ we’re here to help.” Some of the lessons include supporting breastfeeding, help with navigating tantrums, or car seat information. Women have a little bit of homework to take home and then return the following week.

“Dads are also welcome and any other support person the mom wants to be there. Classes are one on one or women can bring their support person, they can bring babies, and have toddlers running around if they need to,” Brean shared. “We are pretty accommodating.”

Birthright volunteers also help with referrals to social services for other trainings and services, and the organization maintains its relationships with the women.

“We get moms asking and joining us, some stay and stay and stay,” Brean said. “It is nice for moms, besides learning how to help their child and bring them up, they immediately start to get points for our Blessings Boutique. They can choose brand new items, clothes, decorations for the nursery, and odds and ends. We have a list for things they can use their points for, including diapers and wipes. At $25 to $30 a box, that comes in handy.”

“Dads are welcome to come in too and get diapers,” added Irwin, who has been volunteering for Birthright for two years. They have a rack of clothing for parents to come and choose from.

Irwin shared Birthright’s motto, from their foundress Louise Summerhill: “It’s the right of every pregnant woman to give birth and the right of every child to be born.”

For their clients, Irwin emphasized, “It’s not a come once and ‘bye, bye.’ You can come once a week and get diapers, formula and clothes from the racks. We want to be friends with everybody. We want you to know we will help in every way that we can. There is no boundaries (on our willingness to give). We are interdenominational; we don’t ask what the faith is.”

Any new mom can sign up for a “baby shower in a bag.” “It includes baby wipes, lotion, shampoo, a teddy bear, a personal greeting card, and anything to get them started with,” Roberts stated. Volunteers even crochet items for babies.

“We get people that come in from all walks of life,” Roberts shared, “young people who are just parents and grandparents who just get custody of their children and have nothing, foster parents who just heard about us, and we are able to help. All kinds who come in, all kinds of stories you hear, a lot of sad stories too. You realized how blessed you are when you start hearing things.”

“I think it surprises people that you can have money or be poor, if you’re coming in for something we’ll give it to you,” Roberts reflected.

Birthright is always looking for volunteers, and there are a variety of ways people can assist.

“We have some people who are just on the board, some who are just mentors for ‘Earn While You Learn,’ and some who are just in the office,” Roberts noted.

Birthright sends out a newsletter quarterly, Irwin noted, which includes a raffle. The organization also conducts a “Change for Life” bottle drive during Lent. Some Churches also have baby showers year round and giving trees at Christmas time for Birthright.

Monetary and material donations are always welcome, including memorial gifts when someone dies. They take gently used baby clothing up to size five, diapers, wipes, formula, and most baby items. Maternity clothing is also accepted. Birthright of Plattsburgh is located on 50 Clinton Street, Plattsburgh, New York 12901. Their hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m.. They also have evening hours on Monday from 5 to 7 p.m.. Contact them for more information at 518-563-4300 or visit the Birthright of Plattsburgh’s Facebook page for updates. Their 24/7 helpline is 1-800-550-4900.

North Country Catholic North Country Catholic is
honored by Catholic Press
Association of US & Canada

Copyright © Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. All rights reserved.