It was an off-the-cuff remark that started it all last April. After repeated postponements due to COVID, Nancy Gaddy, chief advancement officer at the resettlement agency New American Pathways, had lunch with a few members of the Atlanta Section of the National Council of Jewish Women.
Gaddy wanted to thank NCJW for its help in collecting furniture, food and baby supplies — as well as 100 welcome baskets — for Afghan refugees who had been relocated to Atlanta after the fall of Kabul and the evacuation of American military forces. Gaddy noted that of approximately 400 Afghans her agency was helping to resettle, over 200 were pregnant or had just given birth. “They said, ‘we should have a baby shower!’”
Not surprisingly, Adele Bedrick, vice president of community service for NCJW, took the ball and ran with it. A child of Holocaust survivors, Bedrick had also been a labor and delivery nurse, so she had a “special affinity” for the idea.
“I had always wanted to work with new immigrants and refugees, especially those coming from war-torn countries,” she said. “This was an opportunity I fell into with NCJW.”
In mid-July, NAP and NCJW held the baby shower for more than 60 women and maybe 100 children from newborns to toddlers from several countries at the DeKalb Conference Center on the campus of Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
“Since its founding in 1893, our organization has been devoted to assisting immigrants and refugees,” said Sherry Frank, president, NCJW Atlanta Section. “Volunteers are honored to be helping Afghan and Ukrainian newcomers in partnership with New American Pathways.”
During the planning for the baby shower, the women had to figure out what the mothers or mothers-to-be would need, based on who was pregnant and how old the children would be at the time of the event.
They also realized that the concept of a baby shower would be foreign to the new immigrants. Bedrick said NCJW and NAP weren’t sure whether the men in the family would want their wives and children going out in public.
“It turned out that there was a huge response. We knew they wouldn’t have childcare options for the young children, so we invited them all.”
The women were greeted with gift bags containing age-appropriate baby items such as onesies, diapers and teething rings. Tables were set up for women from the same or similar countries along with an interpreter, while in a separate part of the room, tables were set up for the children, with puzzles, books and arts and crafts projects.
“We had over 150 kids running around,” said Gaddy. An international continental breakfast was provided for the women and children, who were bused to the facility.
NCJW had received a $3,000 diversity inclusion grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta that was matched by the group, according to Frank, president of the Atlanta Section of NCJW.
“Our members donated items and checks. It is unbelievable how this has resonated with people. We are an agency of direct service to women and children,” she said.
At least one member knitted a dozen or more baby hats and handed them out, added Bedrick.
The baby shower also provided educational information for the mothers, focusing on access to pediatric care, as well as information on immunization and breast feeding.
“We had 15 interpreters at the event,” said Gaddy. “We put people at tables based on their languages.”
After NCJW put together 100 welcome baskets last fall and delivered them to NAP to distribute to new Afghan refugees, Gaddy said that a few of the women became “permanent volunteers.”
“By then we had settled more than 400 people from Afghanistan,” she said.
According to Bedrick, the baby shower was a win-win situation. “The NCJW members really enjoy” reaching out to the Afghan refugees and the women and children who attended also “seemed to really enjoy it,” she said.