Baby Pantry under new leadership

More than 10 years after the Alpena Baby Pantry was first established, the program continues to thrive. For the bulk of the last decade it has been under the very capable leadership of Celeste Phillips.

After pouring her energy into the program which provides parents in need with young children’s clothing and necessities Phillips recently opted to retire from the volunteer position. Since then, a committee of other volunteers have stepped forward and taken over the reigns of the Baby Pantry.

“We have a team now,” said Kathy Newhouse. “Different people take different tasks. Filling Celeste’s shoes is taking five to eight of us.”

On Wednesday of last week, a small reception in honor of Phillips was held at the Baby Pantry, where Lee Fitzpatrick of the Alpena/Presque Isle Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention Team presented her with a clock to mark all the time she has given to the program. The Baby Pantry was started by the CA/N Team and serves both Alpena and Presque Isle counties.

Phillips said she is pleased by the direction the program is going and that she would not have stepped aside until she felt comfortable that it was in good hands.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the Baby Pantry,” Phillips said. “New views always can enhance and help a program. That’s healthy. I think that’s what is happening.”

Besides Newhouse, other key volunteers of the new committee are Vicki Zawasky, Linda Currier, Audrey Seguin, Karen Eller, Dawn Carpenter and Joy Shoemaker.

The Baby Pantry is located in several classrooms in the St. Bernard Parish Center at 391 Lockwood where Phillips and other volunteers have organized the donations of clothing according to season and size. The clothing is neatly displayed as are many of the other kid-related items available at the facility.

Distribution days are scheduled once a month on the third Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Any family with infants or toddlers is welcome at the Baby Pantry with no referral necessary.

Clothing offered ranges in size from preemie to 3T. Other items available are diapers, baby wipes, bath supplies, formula, baby food, bedding, toys, books and some baby equipment. The next scheduled distribution day is Feb. 20. Those in need of a little extra help for their young children are invited to come then and make selections from the varied inventory.

Phillips, who has attended conferences regarding programs like the Baby Pantry, said people are always impressed with what is offered in Alpena.

“People are impressed with the fact that we have a facility and can set it up the way we do,” Phillips said. “There are several others in the state that have their clothing in bins and have to put it out just for the distribution day, then pack it back up afterward.”

Now that’s she has stepped aside from the Baby Pantry, Phillips is using her extra free time sewing, crocheting and reading as well as organizing her home.

“I’m making a different pace for myself for a little while,” she said.

In the meantime, both Phillips and Newhouse said there always are needs at the Baby Pantry. The top five items they are always looking for in the way of donations are diapers of all sizes, bath supplies, formula, baby wipes and baby food. Donations of clothing in the preemie to 3T sizes also are needed.

The Baby Pantry also welcomes donations of money, which are used to purchase any necessary items not donated by the public.

Donations may be dropped off at the Baby Pantry on the scheduled distribution day or on the second Wednesday of each month, when a volunteer work bee is held between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Donations can also be taken to Jerry’s Barbershop on Second Avenue during normal business hours or to the MSU Extension office located at the Alpena Fairgrounds on 11th Avenue on Tuesdays through Thursdays.

To make other arrangements for donating items, call the Baby Pantry at 356-9317/255-8872 or email