Hampton Student Helps God's Baby Closet Fulfill Needs

Donations are on rise, but so is the need

By Nancy Rineman

Hampton Union, Friday, May 13, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Hannaford Associate Terry Harrington with Sarah Portrie and her parents Kate and Steve Portrie.
[Nancy Rineman photo]

HAMPTON -- At the First Congregational Church of Hampton, United Church of Christ, Sarah Portrie brings new meaning to the spirit of community service, donating her time and energy tending to the needs of local babies.

At the Baby Closet at the Winnacunnet Road church, Sarah is a driving force behind the collection and distribution of a wide assortment of baby necessities. Beyond the collection of new and gently used items, monetary donations are added to the cause to purchase diapers, formula and furniture for Hampton families in need and those in nearby Rockingham County towns.

Portrie, who is a freshman at Winnacunnet High School, claimed the Baby Closet as a church confirmation project, and so began her inspiring effort to continue to support a cause she now loves.

The Rev. Deborah Knowlton, minister at the First Congregational Church, said she has seen a huge jump in the number of people in need of assistance from the Baby Closet in the last three years. More than 65 families have turned to the church for help due to financial setbacks.

Knowlton marveled at the difference Portrie has made in donations made to the Baby Closet since her involvement over the last few years. In addition to hours spent sorting and hanging clothes, and providing clients with needed items on Saturday afternoons, Portrie decided to test her skills as a party planner.

"Her big thing was to plan a baby shower, for everyone to bring something for the Baby Closet," Knowlton said.

"All her teachers, friends, the whole church came," Knowlton said, estimating that close to 200 people attended the shower over the course of the afternoon event, held in January.

Knowlton said Portrie opened all the presents, accompanying each with "oohs" and "ahhs." She wrote thank you notes to everyone, as well.

"It's like a wonderful party," Knowlton said. "It supplies the Closet for two or three months."

"For me, it's such an incredible blessing," Knowlton said of Portrie's love for the program.

"She's tending her own babies-at-risk, so to speak, showing (us) that beautiful arc of giving and receiving," Knowlton said.

With Portrie's help, and that of her parents, Kate and Steve Portrie, the Baby Closet received more than $2,000 in donations, plus diapers and clothing. Added to that was the support of Hannaford supermarket in Hampton, which selected the Baby Closet as its charity for the month of April.

"It is perfect and amazing," Portrie said last week, as Hannaford associates presented her with a huge cart of donated items, including a baby swing, and other baby gear, diapers, toys, books, and clothing, along with a generous check.

"It's just been such a win-win for us and the community," added Kate Portrie.

For more information about the Baby Closet, contact the First Congregational Church, 127 Winnacunnet Road, Hampton.