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Baby Boutique serves families in transition

In December, ParentMap announced its "Giving Together" campaign benefiting Family Services, a nonprofit agency in King County committed to strengthening families and creating a safer community. This month, we profile Family Services' Baby Boutique.

When Julee came to the Family Services Baby Boutique for the first time in late 2003, she was pregnant and in an abusive relationship. Desperately needing maternity clothing, she was referred to us by a public health nurse. Julee changed from her non-maternity jeans into a comfortable pair of maternity pants while still at the store.

She came out from the dressing room with a big smile on her face, and left with several other maternity pants and shirts, as well as a nursing bra and baby booties for the new arrival. After giving birth to Angie, a beautiful girl, Julee visited in need of some items for her new daughter. Though still in the abusive relationship, Julee didn't feel like she could leave because of her abuser's financial support and her own desire for her daughter to have a father. She picked out a stroller, a front-pack and several other items and left the store, again with a smile on her face.

The next time we saw Julee, however, she wasn't able to show us her smile; her abuser had broken her jaw the night before. She had left their apartment with Angie, the clothing on their backs and Angie's stroller. We provided them with diapers, baby food and some clean clothing for Angie, and encouraged Julee to call the Domestic Violence Hotline. She did not want to call, but took the hotline phone number with her.

In late 2004, Julee came in and shared with the volunteers and staff that she was ready to call a local domestic violence shelter; her abuser was in jail and, without any means to pay rent, she was being evicted. Julee used the Baby Boutique's phone and was eventually connected with a shelter, which started the intake process over the phone.

While Angie played in the toy area, Julee arranged to pick up her belongings and found transportation to the shelter. This was a very difficult decision for Julee. But as she told the Baby Boutique staff, she felt safe and supported while she found a new beginning for herself and Angie. "Mostly what I feel when I'm here," Julee told us, "is hopeful. And that's not a feeling I get very often!"

Located in downtown Seattle, Family Services' Baby Boutique provides essential items like new and gently used clothing and shoes, diapers, books, toys and equipment to local homeless children. All goods are free to families in shelters or transitional housing and families receiving housing assistance.

The Baby Boutique experience is like that of any store; clients are welcomed and can browse at their leisure, and staff or a volunteer helps them find what they need. Over 100 local agencies refer clients to the Baby Boutique.

This vital community resource relies on donations from the community. When your kids outgrow their clothes and equipment, or when you're doing some cleaning, please consider a donation to the Baby Boutique. Our wish list is at www.family-services.org.

For information on volunteering time or donating clothing, contact Steve Winter at 206-826-3039 or e-mail swinter@family-services.org.

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