Care packages help mothers find comfort during loss of child

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published November 15, 2018

  Angels Above Baby Gowns makes burial gowns out of donated wedding dresses and uses the pieces of the dresses to make other comforting items.

Angels Above Baby Gowns makes burial gowns out of donated wedding dresses and uses the pieces of the dresses to make other comforting items.

Photo provided by Chris Piebiak

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — An event such as the death of an infant or a stillbirth is a devastating time for a mother and her family. That’s why St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Shelby Township and Angels Above Baby Gowns in Garden City have teamed up to offer small care packages that can bring sympathy and comfort to grieving families.

Angels Above Baby Gowns is a charity group made up of women in Garden City and Westland that accepts both new and used wedding gowns and recycles them into burial gowns in the event of a stillbirth or an infant who has died within days or months of birth.

Dawn Corey, the president of Angels Above Baby Gowns, said that each family gets a package that will help them feel cared about and comforted during their most difficult time. The packages include the gowns, ornaments, burial wraps, blankets, bracelets, booties and a shadow box.

“I used to sit with my father-in-law and read stories, and we happened to read one that was about a stillborn baby and how a woman created a gown for that baby, and I thought I could sew all day, this is a great idea, and I wanted to start doing this, and once I did, my friend saw it and joined in,” said Corey.

Angels Above Baby Gowns is able to provide the packages through connections with police or hospitals that notify them of a family’s loss.

Volunteers meet three times a week to create the gowns, and they send the packages to the hospitals with their own money. Sometimes they receive donations.

A parishioner at St. Therese of Lisieux Parish named Randy Berd mentioned the group to the Rev. Larry Zurawski at the church, and Zurawski agreed it would be a great idea.

The parish held a monthlong donation drive to collect new or used wedding dresses so that they could be used as gowns. The parish received 61 dresses from people who wanted to help.

“We believe it is the desire to share the happiness received on one’s wedding day, to be as comforting to those mothers and families who have suffered the terrible loss of a child, and to be properly dressed for burial in their time of grief,” Chris Piebiak, the director of communications at St. Therese of Lisieux Parish, said of the drive’s success.

Donated dresses are picked up by the Angels Above Baby Gowns.

“We pick them up and cut them into the gowns, which are sewn into the baby gowns and other items to comfort the families during the difficult moment,” Corey said.

“Depending on the sizes of the wedding dresses and the beading on it, between five to 20 baby gowns can be made out of each,” said Corey.

Corey said that she would be able to make 15 to 20 gowns in an hour for the babies herself, and the others would be made by other members of the group, who are also volunteers.

If they are unable to use all the pieces of a dress, they try to find another use for the pieces, such as donating them to animal shelters for pillow stuffing.

Many of the sewing machines they use are donated, and if people making the gowns don’t have their own, they can use the donated machines.

The Angels Above Baby Gowns group meets from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays in the Garden City area, and Wednesday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon at the Westland Friendship Center at 1119 Newburgh Road in Westland. For more information on how to donate or about the group, call (734) 421-2322.