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Cupboard fills needs among area families

Volunteer group provides household, personal items

SALEM, OREGON — January 22, 2009 —  Public-health nurses in Marion County often make home visits to families in need. Sometimes they find that something vital may be missing — dish soap, detergent or toothbrushes.

Now, help from a nonprofit of Salem women keeps a stockpile of those household items available for the nurses.

"When a nurse goes to a home, they ask parents if they need anything," said Cristine Stephens, a Marion County health resource coordinator. "If the family has extra needs, like a lamp, or baby guard door, we provide that, too ... whatever the need is in the family."

A laundry list of household and personal care items is donated, and bags for each family are filled by the Salem Woman's Service Club.

The project, known as Saidie's Cupboard, is named after Saidie Orr Dunbar, a champion of public health in Oregon in the mid-1930s, said Pam Briggs, the Salem group's secretary.

Orr Dunbar served as international president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs in 1936 and also was an active member in the Oregon Federal of Women's Clubs.

The Salem Woman's Service Club is part of the federation.

The pillowcase-sized bags are compact, filled with more than a dozen different kinds of toiletries — liquid dish soap, toilet paper, toothbrushes, shampoo, lotion and bar soap.

The club also puts together bags tailored for families with infants. Those bags contain items such as diapers, diaper rash cream, baby receiving blankets and baby clothing.

Saidie's Cupboard began in 2004.

Briggs said that when Salem Woman's Service Club members began searching for a new project, the Marion County early childhood programs seemed like an ideal fit.

"They serve so many families that fall between the cracks, that just don't get the services in any other way," Briggs said.

Recipients of Saidie's Cupboard typically are referred and already enrolled in the county health department's early childhood programs, particularly two that focus on needy families with medically fragile children, said Judith Cleave, program supervisor of Marion County Early Childhood Services.

Babies First! serves families of infants from birth to toddler.

CaCoon, which serves children from birth to 20 years old, focuses on children who are at risk for developmental disabilities or have been diagnosed with them.

From July 2007 to June 2008, 818 women and children were served in Marion County under the two programs, Cleave said. The county's public health nurses made about home 2,900 visits.

Nurses bring the bags with them wherever they go, often to rural or remote areas of the county, Stephens said.

Stephens said the amount of time and resources invested by the Salem Woman's Club to create the bags is incredible.

"It's really valuable for us to be out there and get into the home," she said.

Contributions to Saidie's Cupboard can be made to SWSC Community Projects, P.O. Box 4381, Salem, OR 97302. For information about the Salem Woman's Service Club, call Pam Briggs at (541) 974-1193.

—Ruth Liao, Statesman Journal

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