‘Nurturing nook’ offers free supplies to Lafayette mothers and babies in need

A set of plastic wrapped bowls and spoons sits on a shelf.
The newly installed nurturing nook at the Lafayette Parish Public Health Unit is stocked with nonperishable items for mothers and babies in Lafayette, La., on Friday, January 26, 2024. Photo by Alena Maschke

A box stocked with free non-perishable items for mothers and babies — diapers, bottles, baby wipes and the like — has been installed at the Lafayette Parish Public Health Unit on Willow Street.

“I get a ton of calls from moms who are in need of diapers,” said Laurie Lafleur, the community action network coordinator for the Healthy Start program at The Family Tree, which provides counseling, education and support services for families in Acadiana. Healthy Start is a free support program for pregnant women and caregivers of babies and toddlers.

“We needed to go in a different direction to provide more of those types of items for moms and babies in the community,” Lafleur said. In September, her team began to envision a distribution system and eventually partnered with Steel Magnolias, an organization set up to support young girls in Acadiana, and the local Rotary Club to build and stock the box it dubbed a “nurturing nook”.

“They were very excited about it,” Lafleur said of the organizations’ memberships. Two Rotary Club members ended up building the physical box that officially opened Friday at the Lafayette health unit. “I had a sketch of it with dimensions that someone had made for me. And they took that and ran with it.”

A box with two levels holds baby items like diapers, wipes and plastic cutlery.
The newly installed nurturing nook at the Lafayette Parish Public Health Unit is stocked with nonperishable items for mothers and babies in Lafayette, La., on Friday, January 26, 2024. Photo by Alena Maschke

Inflation has hit families across the country especially hard. Many parents struggle to afford basic necessities for their babies, as the average price for diapers, for example, shot up 32% between 2019 and 2023, according to data on U.S. sales of disposable diapers.

Kept in stock with the help of donations, the items will be free of charge to any mothers in need, no application or income statements required.

“Take it if you need it. Leave it if you have it,” Lafleur said. The box is available to the public in the foyer of the health unit and will be restocked weekly, or more often if needed, according to Lafleur.

The Nurturing Nook in Lafayette is the first of its kind, but the group hopes to expand the program to other locations throughout Acadiana.

Those looking to donate items to keep the box stocked may contact Laurie LaFleur, [email protected].