ATLANTIC CITY — As mothers themselves, Darlene Pettus and Derma Jones know moms need baby diapers and wipes for their children no matter how much a family struggles to afford other things.
Pettus and her late sister, Earlene Russell, formed Atlantic County Residents Outreach Associations Inc. seven years ago to provide these items and baby formula for less fortunate families.
On Dec. 9, Pettus and Jones, who works with Pettus in the organization, will host a tribute to the late state Sen. Jim Whelan and honor people who have helped the women with their mission.
The event at the All Wars Memorial Building also will serve as a fundraiser, so the women can keep assisting mothers who need help with the essentials.
“We have helped 2,800 families since 2010. We have an annual diaper drive,” Pettus said. “I’m passionate about what I do because I’m blessed.”
The women have more than 200 diapers left over from their most recent diaper drive, but they are running low on baby wipes and formula. Families that receive diapers are asked to donate two canned goods in exchange.
Pettus, 64, and Jones, 57, who both live in the resort, run the 1st Consignment in Atlantic City store on South New York Avenue. People bring in items to be sold over a 60- or 90-day span.
If a clothing item does not sell, the owner can take it back or choose to donate it to the store, Pettus said. The women have been known to give away donated clothes to the needy.
The Dec. 9 dinner will honor individuals, but local businesses that have helped the women with their mission include Boscov’s, Target, Walmart, J.C. Penney, Hard Rock Cafe, One Stop Bait & Tackle on Atlantic Avenue and Hannah G’s in Ventnor.
“Retail stores donate to us, or we go in our pockets,” Pettus said. “These organizations and businesses have been helping for five years.”
The women are honoring Whelan because Pettus said he never missed one of their events. Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, also will be honored for appearing at their fundraisers.
“I knew Sen. Whelan for more than 40 years,” Pettus said.
In an unusual move, Kathy Doles, who had been Whelan’s chief of staff since 2012 and now serves in the same capacity for Sen. Colin Bell, D-Atlantic, will be honored in her own right.
“Anything I would ask, she would never let me down,” Pettus said.
Doles, who sees herself as a support person, said the office treats everybody the same.
“I’m happy to be included, so that I can say a few words on his (Whelan’s) behalf,” Doles said. “I’m thrilled that she (Pettus) thinks so much of me.”
Two other people who will be honored Dec. 9 are Rafael Maldonaldo, owner of Citywide Towing on Fairmount Avenue, and Derek Brock, owner of Mutual Taxi Limousine and Beach Vans on North Kentucky Avenue.
Maldonaldo has donated money in the past. Brock uses his van to pick up items being donated to the outreach association and bring them to 1st Consignment. Pettus takes the items from the store to the mothers in need if they cannot come in themselves.
“I give because I want to help people,” said Brock, 51, who lives in the resort. “Atlantic City is a family-oriented town. I believe in Atlantic City.”