In the United States, there are about 24,000 stillborn babies born each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Holy Sews ministry is there to make sure as many of those babies as possible can be cradled and covered in a dignified way, donating tiny handmade layettes to give to parents. Since its inception at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock in 2008, the ministry has grown to chapters in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, Oneonta, N.Y., and Hot Springs Village and thanks to a recent $10,315 grant, the ministry will be able to expand even more. Regina Binz, founder and president of Holy Sews, said she’s happy, stunned and overwhelmed.
“I never dreamed that this would happen. I just followed the spirit and the rest just happened,” Binz said.
After a suggestion from her mother, Binz started the ministry a year after her and her husband Kevin’s child Ryan was delivered stillborn at 17 weeks. The clothing Ryan was put in was too large for him.
“It was just one more thing that was wrong. There’s nothing good about that situation. You’re already hypersensitive to everything and he was dressed beautifully, but it just dwarfed him.”
In 2008 on Black Friday, Binz and a friend, who also lost children, brought a layette — a handmade tunic, cap and blanket — and offered it to the labor and delivery unit in Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers. While Binz was still grieving and frustrated by the roadblocks they encountered before with the layettes, she assumed the nurse’s shocked expression meant the answer was no.
“She said, ‘We have a woman who is in labor and we can’t stop her labor and that baby is going to die, and we don’t have anything to put (the baby) in,’” Binz said. “My friend and I both just sobbed. … I always say I was looking for a sign, looking for a sign and I got a lightning bolt. I think that moment was pivotal.”
Binz said this grant is just one more example of divine intervention. The grant, approved on April 24, was given by the Permanent Endowment Fund of the Moody Memorial First United Methodist Church in Galveston, Texas, where Binz’s sister is a member. The leadership encouraged Holy Sews to write a grant after seeing the layettes.
A founding volunteer Mary Sue Whitelaw, vice president and secretary for Holy Sews, helped write the grant. The grant money will stay with the Arkansas chapters and go toward hiring someone to reach out to more hospitals about sending layettes and material and shipping costs.
“It’s mainly to help us expand the number of hospitals we’re not serving,” Whitelaw said. “We’ll also develop a video that will instruct nurses and social workers on how to present the layettes to the parents.”
Holy Sews currently ships or delivers layettes to 173 hospitals and around 70 funeral homes in 29 states. The layettes are given to 40 hospitals in Arkansas, including CHI St. Vincent, Baptist Health Medical Center and UAMS Medical Center in Little Rock.
There are about 200 volunteers throughout the four chapters. The Little Rock chapter, which has at least 20 volunteers monthly, makes about 60 layettes each time, at a cost of about $20 per layette.
Whitelaw said the ministry operates on donations and has been blessed by the annual ArkansasGives, a one-day nonprofit fundraising event throughout the state, garnering about $18,800 total in donations for two years.
“The volunteers, we know that what we’re doing is a good thing. We’re so happy to be a part of it. But to have someone else give you this (grant) money to expand what you’re already doing, it’s a wonderful affirmation,” she said.
At every turn, there have been stories of hope and healing, Whitelaw said, convinced the ministry is “totally driven by the Holy Spirit.” Like the Holy Sews volunteer who struck up a conversation with a Kroger employee about the ministry, never anticipating he lost a granddaughter, who had received a Holy Sews layette. He opened his wallet, giving her everything in it to donate to the group. Or the Dallas volunteer who went to buy fabric at a store, only to find out the worker assisting her was filling in for another employee who had been pregnant when she was involved in a car accident. The child was killed and Holy Sews had given her a layette. The worker paid for all the Holy Sews supplies.
Whitelaw said the group is always looking for people to help create the layettes, everything from sewing to packaging, “there’s something for everyone to do.”
“It’s just so beautiful. It just inspires me. I just have this burning passion for this ministry,” Whitelaw said, adding this grant is just another blessing. “I just feel the Holy Spirit when we’re all together in that room once a month making those beautiful layettes.”
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