April 2021: Reinvigorating Gabriel’s Closet
Children are a gift from the Lord. They are a reward from Him.” – Psalms 127:3
Gabriel’s Closet, a family strengthening program of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana, is a merit-based program offering education and resources to low-income families that are either expecting a baby, have a newborn, or have children ages 4 or younger. Parents can earn merits in many ways:
- Take a class in parenting, prenatal, infant health, safety, school readiness, craft making and many other topics
- Attending doctor/prenatal visits
- Attending the church of your choice
- Attending school
- Holding a job
After securing merits, parents can exchange them for essential baby items like car seats, diapers, clothes, highchairs, strollers, children’s books and educational toys.
The program is almost exclusively run by volunteers. Betty Mirts (chairman), Cynthia Cordaro, Debbie Macy, Cheryl McGowen and Bev Miller – all members of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton – donate their time on Mondays and Thursdays facilitating this free parenting program.
“People are consistently ‘wowed’ when they enter the sanctuary and see Gabriel’s Closet,” said executive director Meg Goorley. “I will forever sing the praises of the volunteers who come in each week for multiple hours to take care of these clients.”
Since the beginning of COVID-19, the team has had to “rethink” the structure of the program. Many clients stopped attending because children were not allowed to come with their parents.
Now that the volunteers have all been vaccinated, Gabriel’s Closet will again allow children to attend starting in April. Classes will remain small and appropriately spaced for safety, and masks will still be required. Classes are held on Monday and Thursday at 1:00 p.m.
The group has also developed an outreach plan to reach more parents and volunteers. The team identified several community partners in the Shreveport-Bossier area and began updating them about Gabriel’s Closet. New postcards of information will soon be circulated to pediatric clinics, healthcare centers, nonprofits, and law enforcement agencies.
Several Loyal College Prep students have also begun earning service hours on Thursdays at Gabriel’s Closet. The teens help restock the inventory and put together new baby items, like strollers and educational toys.
The team still needs more qualified adult volunteers, though, to help teach and babysit while the parents attend class. If you would like to volunteer with Gabriel’s Closet, please email Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin the application process. All volunteers who see clients and children must take the “Protecting God’s Children”course through the Diocese. Background checks will be performed as well.
Additionally, if you or someone you know has a women’s health or pediatric clinic that serves low-income patients and would like to tell their clients about this program, call Erin at 318-865-0200 ext. 109 so we can deliver postcards to them for distribution.