Meeting needs others have missed is what St. Saviour’s Center in Raleigh is all about.
From collecting diapers for disadvantaged babies to a vibrant senior program that last year promoted its work by wrapping part of downtown in knitted scarves, afghans and sweaters for the needy, St. Saviour’s specializes in looking for what is not out there.
“We are bridging the gap in services for low-income families and seniors,” said Executive Director Sharon Hayes. “Where there are no other services for folks, especially working folks and retirees, we are providing services.”
St. Saviour’s may be best known for its innovative Diaper Train, now in its fifth year. When the nonprofit learned that baby diapers aren’t covered by public assistance programs, organizers teamed with 15 agencies that help families and asked the public to donate disposable diapers.
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They distributed 65,000 diapers that first year. Last year, they gave away 650,000 diapers through various assistance agencies.
“The need was so much greater than we knew,” Hayes said.
WIC and food stamp programs don’t cover diapers, which can cost a family more than $100 a month – per baby. One in three needy parents have to choose between buying food and diapers. Most importantly, children can’t go to day care or participate in early childhood education without diapers. If parents can’t drop their kids off for care, they can’t work, Hayes said.
St. Saviour’s also operates a senior healthy living program aimed at helping their Glenwood South neighbors, Glenwood Towers and Carriage House. The program provides health and wellness information and spiritual support.
The Rev. David Lynch has spent a lot of time with the senior participants since coming on board in March.
The former organist and choirmaster of Christ Episcopal Church in Raleigh accompanies the group in organized walks, joins them for lunch and offers prayer and spiritual support as needed. He also shares meals with them from time to time. St. Saviour’s hosts a congregant dining room for Meals on Wheels. Qualified seniors can have a meal on site.
“I enjoy the people. This is a rich mix of people from all cultures and economic and social backgrounds,” Lynch said. “I think I get as much out of this as they do!”
St. Saviour’s is the modern-day chapter of a story that began in the late 1800s when a Raleigh couple visited an old church in Ireland. The couple returned with such good memories that they donated money to Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Raleigh on the condition a school be built and named St. Saviour’s.
By the mid-1920s, the mission church had grown and Christ Church built a larger church and rectory on the present-day site in Glenwood South. St. Saviour’s Church, where Ravenscroft School got its start, would later move and become St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. Ravenscroft would move to North Raleigh and the church and land would be purchased by the Raleigh Housing Authority. The authority occupied the space for years but asked St. Saviour’s to work with the residents of Glenwood Towers and Carriage house when they moved out.
We truly depend on people with kind hearts and giving spirits.
Sharon Hayes, director Saint Savior’s Center
Other programs operating there include: the Meals on Wheels dining room; Wake Relief, a food pantry that gathers emergency groceries for those facing loss of employment, financial hardship and other crises; Community Music School, which offers music education for children whose parents cannot afford lessons; and the Haitian Evangelical Community Church.
Funded through individual donations, some foundation money and help from area churches, the most pressing needs at St. Saviour’s this holiday season are for donations, more disposable diapers and children’s storybooks (new and gently used). Every child who comes to the Diaper Train gets a book, Hayes said.
“We truly depend on people with kind hearts and giving spirits,” she said.
St. Saviour’s Center
616 Tucker St.
Raleigh, N.C. 27603
Contact: Sharon Hayes, 919-833-6400, ext. 201
Description: Saint Saviour’s Center bridges gaps in services for low-income families and retirees. We address needs that are not met by public service agencies. Our programs include The Diaper Train, which serves 1,000 babies and toddlers each month, and Healthy Living for Seniors, which helps older adults with limited resources navigate the aging process.
Donations needed: Diapers, baby wipes and children’s books. We also need funds to purchase diapers in sizes most needed and to provide educational and recreational opportunities for seniors.
Volunteers needed: Distribute diapers to families on Tuesday or Thursday morning, lead a class or activity for seniors.
$10 would buy: Baby wipes and children’s books.
$20 would buy: An outing for a senior who would otherwise be homebound.
$50 would buy: Two weeks’ worth of diapers for one baby.