Kerri Bachler-Connor is giving the help she once needed when her children were younger.
The Ringwood woman fought back tears as she spoke about why she started Nurturing Necessities, a nonprofit organization that provides clothing, blankets, toys, diapers and other baby-related items to low-income families in Lake and McHenry Counties.
She runs the charity out of her home, having turned a downstairs spare bedroom into a "store" where those in need can pick up necessities. Shelves, tables and a closet house the items.
"I needed help, and I know there are a lot of people out there that need it," she said.
Since opening about two years ago, the organization has helped at least 50 people, Bachler-Connor said.
Mom to three and stepmom to four with husband Michael Connor, Bachler-Connor said her oldest son is mentally ill and at one point ended up using the services of McHenry County's Public Action to Deliver Shelter. PADS shelters the homeless at area churches.
"He would call me and say, 'There's a woman you have to help. She just had a baby and doesn't have anything,'" Bachler-Connor said of her son.
She'd ask her son to give the phone to the woman. She'd find out what the woman needed and bring her anything she could gather.
Bachler-Connor also does the laundry monthly for a PADS shelter in Wonder Lake.
In the summer of 2010, she and friends gathered baby supplies when several families they knew were expecting. Unfortunately, most of the babies did not make it full term, she said.
"We suddenly had this abundance of stuff," Bachler-Connor said. "It was, 'OK, what do we do with it?' "
While she and others often were able to find necessities online through sites that offer them free, such as The Freecycle Network, others do not have access to computers, she said.
"It kind of dawned on me the people who need the stuff the most aren't the people sitting on their computers trying to get these things for free," she said. "Even if they could, they don't generally have a car to go and get them."
So using her own money, Bachler-Connor created Nurturing Necessities and formed a board for the organization.
Board treasurer Carol Baker, a friend of Bachler-Connor's, was among those who was expecting in 2010. Pregnant with twins, she lost the babies. She now has three children, ages 7, 4 and 2.
She said she supported Bachler-Connor's idea from the beginning.
"We pretty much decided there was a lot of need because we knew a lot of people struggling financially," said Baker, of Lakemoor. "It was a no-brainer for me to help. There was no thinking about it."
The group hears about those in need through PADS, social media and word of mouth, and provides its information to area high schools and other agencies that help those in need.
If families aren't able to come get the supplies at Bachler-Connor's Ringwood home, she brings the donations to them. Others can come "shop," but are encouraged to take only what they need. The organization reserves the right to limit what they take, but that has never been an issue.
"We've actually had clients who've returned and donated stuff back," Bachler-Connor said. "They let us know if they have something somebody else is looking for."
Through fundraising efforts, those involved have worked to provide not only supplies, but gift cards, as well. The group always is in need of diapers, baby wipes, formula, bottles and other baby necessities, and welcomes cash donations.
"We're still small," Bachler-Connor said. "We're looking for donations and always looking for people to help."By Story by JAMI KUNZER - firstname.lastname@example.org