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Making sure it’s a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’: Community members make gift bags for mothers in need

By Staff | May 17, 2019

From right, Lynette Kammerer, of Hedgesville, Sarah Muskett, of Inwood, and first grade homeschooler Elizabeth McKinney, of Inwood, sort through hygiene products to put in gift bags for local mothers in need, during the Mother's Day Gift Bags for the Homeless event at St. Agnes Catholic Church on May 7. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — When Michelle Kwiatkowski put her first gift bags together for homeless and teen mothers four years ago, she never anticipated it becoming a major community event. But as 20 volunteers flitted from one pile of donations to the next with gift bag in hand, Kwiatkowski said she was thrilled to know the results from this year’s event would give every mother in Bethany House, Shenandoah Women’s Center and Young Lives a gift for Mother’s Day.

“It blows you away, the generosity of people. I always find, you feel better helping people, than you do by just getting things yourself,” Kwiatkowski said, mentioning giving gifts to homeless women holds more importance to her, since she and her family were left homeless after a house fire a couple of years ago. “We know how it is to have no home, so that’s kind of why we wanted this to continue going on.”

According to Kwiatkowski, along with her business, Wild Rose Soap Company, a number of other local businesses and community members dropped off donations at her home over the weeks approaching the event.

“Whatever anyone donates, I don’t know up to the day what we get. We give the candles and other fun items to the teen moms. To the moms in the homeless shelters, we give more of the practical items,” Kwiatkowski said. “We will do about 80 bags this year.”

For Hedgesville resident Amanda Basta, this year was the first time she helped with the event.

“I happened to see it on Facebook,” Basta said, mentioning she is heavily involved in a couple of local community service organizations. “It’s an important thing to try and help others in a time of need. We’re sowing seeds to make a difference.”

Many of the event volunteers were connected with the Wild and Free West Virginia Homeschool Group, including Judy Rata, of Harpers Ferry, who came to the event again this year with her son and daughter.

“We homeschool, so I figured this was a good opportunity to get them to serve their community. If I start them little, it’ll be second nature for them,” Rata said, as she helped her children sort through boxes of hygiene items. “I like that it fills a local need, and it’s just really neat to see all the people that come out and help.”

Across the room, Gretchen Matz, of Martinsburg, was picking out a bottle of nail polish to put in a bag for a teen mom.

“Having a baby is expensive, and this will bring some relief to some people,” Matz said, mentioning she hoped the gift bags would fill two needs for their recipients. “Just to let mothers know that they are thought about, and to offer things that they can use.”