When a baby is hungry, it can't wait for bureaucracy to provide food. But a call to AHEART in Atlantic City can provide an immediate emergency supply of formula.
But that's only if they have formula in stock.
"The one thing we always need is formula," said Robbin Bell, founder and CEO of AHEART, which provides diapers, formula and other infant clothing and furniture items from its small location in Gordon's Alley, and new locations in Vineland and Clayton, Gloucester County.
AHEART stands for All Hearts Educating, Advocat-ing, Restoring, Transforming. Bell started the nonprofit organization in 2008 after working as a court-appointed special advocate in Cumb-erland, Gloucester and Salem counties, where she saw families struggling and children who were abused and neglected. AHEART works with doctors, hospitals and social service agencies to help new mothers provide for their infants.
The group has partnered with the Cuddle Me Program diaper bank which along with private donations keeps it well stocked with diapers, Bell said. AHEART is also partially supported by the Reliance Foundation of Reliance Med-ical Group as part of its community outreach. Private donors, clubs and church groups help maintain the clothing and baby supply boutique.
But formula, because of its cost, is always in demand and hard to keep in stock. Not all mothers are able or encouraged to breastfeed, Bell said. Some of the babies have low birth weight or spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit and need supplemental formula, she added.
"We are down to about 25 cans," Bell said. The Atlantic City site currently helps about 50 mothers a month, and has opened new sites at the Golden Gate Child Care Cen-ters in Vineland and Clayton. She said the group can always use volunteers to help staff the sites.
While there are agencies that help new mothers, if the mothers have not registered before giving birth, there can be a delay in getting services. And while other agencies offer health-care services, they typically don't provide the physical items mothers need such as diapers, clothing and furniture, Bell said.
AHEART keeps a shelf of so-called BURP, or "Baby Urgent Response Program" bags, that include a supply of baby essentials that can be immediately delivered to hospitals, police or social service workers. She said baby care items such as lotions and diaper rash creams are also always in demand.
"We need to be the safety net," Bell said. "I don't want to turn any mother away because we don't have formula."
Contact Diane D'Amico:
Donations to AHEART can be sent to the group at
27 Gordon's Alley, Atlantic City, NJ 08401. Call 609-344-0083 for more information.