Helping to ensure that infants and toddlers don't go without basic food and supplies is one important way to fight poverty, but often families with small children lack transportation, as well as funds, to get those basics. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation understands this need, and it recently awarded Infant Crisis Services of Oklahoma a $1.75 million matching grant to help these families by providing food, formula, and diapers through the BabyMobile—a mobile service that outreaches to families in need.
Founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation works nationally on a fairly diverse set of issues. While the foundation is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, it has committed over $330 million in funding to Oklahoma. Its main funding areas are journalism, aging and quality of life, and cardiovascular research, but it also provides grants to nonprofits in general in the states of Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma, particularly granting money for capital campaigns that involve building and construction, a life-long passion of its founder.
This grant is a case of capital support that will be used for building. The grant will be used to assist in the funding of the 20,000-square foot expansion to the existing building, providing more storage space for the diapers, food, formula, and other necessities to be distributed to clients daily. The expanded building will also house a new volunteer resource center and workspace where goods can be repackaged for delivery by the agency's 2,800 annual volunteers. A final component of the project is a 1,200 square foot detached garage that will contain space to park three BabyMobiles, once the agency has the funding to buy additional mobile units.
This is not the first time the Reynolds Foundation has supported Infant Crisis Services. In 2009, the foundation provided a gift so that the organization could move to its current location, and as a result, the Donald W. Reynolds Center, its current 17,000-foot facility, was initially founded.
Infant Crisis Services has been around since 1984, the outgrowth of a church school service project of the Westminster Presbyterian Church. For the first ten years of its existence, the program was housed in the back of Second Presbyterian Church, but due to the demand for its services, and with the help of the Reynolds Foundation, the program moved to its current location.
In 2013, Infant Crisis Services's mission hit the road with the launch of the BabyMobile, the first-ever Oklahoma-based mobile food, diaper and formula pantry. Each week, the BabyMobile travels to a variety of locations around central Oklahoma, assisting clients in underserved and marginalized communities. The BabyMobile serves about 4,300 clients a year, and is targeted specifically for families with children less than 4 years old who need help with diapers, food, and formula.
“We have continued to see the number of babies and toddlers living in poverty increase,” said Miki Farris, executive director of Infant Crisis Services. Indeed, national statistics suggest that over one in five children in the U.S. lives in poverty, a number roughly the same as it was in 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson initiated the War on Poverty. With local economies still recovering from the Great Recession and low-income families being some of the hardest-hit by this setback, more programs like the Infant Crisis Services' BabyMobile are probably needed nationwide.
The grant from the Reynolds Foundation will cover a large part of Infant Crisis Services' $4 million capital campaign expansion goal. As of June, Infant Crisis Services was still looking for another $190,000 in funding to fully cover the costs of expansion.