Local church collecting donations for 500 Babies in Africa | ParkRecord.com

Local church collecting donations for 500 Babies in Africa

Scott Iwasaki
A group of children from Zimbabwe are excited for clothes collected by the nonprofit Eyes 4 Zimbabwe, an organization that was founded in the late 1990s to provide cataract surgery for the area's children. The organization has expanded to collect and distribute books and clothes. The Park City Stake Relief Society is currently collection newborn baby supplies for Eyes 4 Zimbabwe to distribute in the summer. (Photo courtesy of Eyes 4 Zimbabwe)

Each year, the Relief Society from the Park City Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosts a service activity.

Last year, the organization asked women from a few different churches, including Shepherd of the Mountain Lutheran Church, to go through their closets and gather clothes they didn’t wear anymore.

"They brought them all to the Stake Center and people could go through the pile and take what they wanted for free," said Diane Livingston, the Park City Stake Relief Society President. "What we had leftover, we donated to the Christian Center and Deseret Industries."

This year, the organization wanted to expand their reach internationally.

"We are doing a project called 500 Babies in Africa," Livingston told The Park Record. "This is a project that will help newborns and their mothers in Zimbabwe. The babies that are born over there don’t have blankets or clothes and are sent home in newspapers. So we wanted do something to help them."

The donations will be distributed through an organization called Eyes 4 Zimbabwe (http://www.eyes4zimbabwe.org ), a nonprofit that was founded in the late 1990s by three Mormon women pro golfers — Reeve Nied, Laurette Maritz and Cecile Lundgreen.

Livingston discovered Eyes 4 Zimbabwe after a toymaker, who works with the organization, visited the stake last year.

"He hosted a project where all of our children made wooden toys," Livingston said. "My son, who was 9, participated in the project. I was there and I talked with the toymaker and he told me about the organization."

Eyes 4 Zimbabwe first raised money for cataract surgery and the projects have blossomed from there, she said.

"They collect many different items throughout the Intermountain West and put the donations into crates," Livingston said. "They lock the crates, and take care of the shipping and the shipping costs."

Once the crates get to Zimbabwe, a team of Eyes 4 Zimbabwe volunteers unlock the crates and distributes the items personally to the people who need them, she said.

"It’s a great organization and it’s exciting for us to work with them," Livingston said.

The Relief Society has teamed with the Christian Center to collect gowns, cloth diapers, blankets, soap and socks for newborn kits that will be shipped to Zimbabwe, Livingston said.

"The gowns have to be void of strings or buttons, which can be dangerous to newborns," Livingston said. "Each kit will include four diapers as well."

During the planning, the Relief Society decided to open the project once more to the community.

"There are so many wonderful people who live here who want to help and want to give, but just don’t know how," Livingston said. "This is a way they can."

Again, one of the main partners is the Christian Center.

"We love working with the Christian Center and have helped with their annual Operation Hope fundraiser," she said. "So we approached them about 500 Babies in Africa and asked if they would be interested in being the place that will receive whatever the community wanted to donate and they said yes."

Cash donations will also be accepted.

"We work with a company in Provo and Ogden called Mandalay International and we can buy wholesale items from them," Livingston said. "So if a person has six dollars and want to buy something to donate, they can buy one gown at a department store or they can donate the money and we can buy three through Mandalay International.

"Donors can write checks to the Christian Center," she said. "They will then cut us a check so we can buy the items."

In addition, the Relief Society has recruited Ecker Hill Middle School to make blankets out of donated fabric from Walmart and is partnering with two other churches — St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and CrossPoint Presbyterian Church — to help with donations.

"We will need all the items in by May 15," Livingston said. "Then we would like to invite everyone to the Stake Center on June 17, to assemble the kits and hear from the founders of Eyes 4 Zimbabwe who will be in attendance."

Donations for 500 Babies in Africa can be made to the Christian Center of Park City, 1283 Deer Valley Dr. For more information about the 500 Babies in Africa project, call Diane Livingston at 435-640-1855, Debbie Flint at 435-640-2924, Kristen Walton at 435-513-9087 or visit http://www.facebook.com/500babiesinafrica . For more information about Eyes 4 Zimbabwe, visit http://www.eyes4zimbabwe.org .