MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The Marine Corps has helping hands held out in all directions to benefit its troops and their families, but many service members are unaware of the free services available through the countless agencies aboard every base.
An example of free services open to all ranks, with few requirements, are the services available to expecting parents.
The American Red Cross, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the New Parent Support Program are among the agencies that provide gifts, classes, and information to any interested service member and their spouse.
The American Red Cross has a baby layette program for service members who have deployed. A layette is a complete set of clothing and bedding for newborn babies. These are donated through the American Red Cross by an outside baby clothing company, said Susan Cangemi, layette program chairman.
To receive a layette from the American Red Cross, there are a few steps and guidelines to follow:
•Fill out an application on the back of the fliers handed out at the delivery waiting room at the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital, pre-deployment briefs, the New Parents Support Program’s Baby Basics Class or at the American Red Cross office located in the Village Center, building 1551.
•Along with the application, a copy of the baby’s birth certificate and proof of deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom are required. Accepted proofs of deployment include, but are not limited to, leave and earning statements showing deployment pay, a letter from the deployed service member’s command, a copy of deployment orders or a copy of a citation from an awarded medal during the deployment. The proof is seen and verified only by an American Red Cross representative, who is obligated to keep this information confidential.
•The American Red Cross will then send the application to their national headquarters, which sends a certificate to notify the applicant of approval to the layette program. This certificate asks for the baby’s current information to be sent back so the layette can be tailored to fit each baby. The baby must weigh no more than 20 pounds to receive the layette.
Cpl. Jason Ness, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, deployed in 2004, which qualified him and his wife, Christine, to receive a layette through the American Red Cross when their first baby, Jaden Damien, was born eight weeks ago.
“Its not as complicated as it sounds,” said Mrs. Ness. “It was worth it. It came in a neat gift wrapped package with items I didn’t think of as a new parent.”
The layette came with bibs, diaper covers, baby tee shirts, pajamas and clothing for when the baby gets a little bit older, she explained.
“We were very pleased with the layette,” Mrs. Ness continued. “We received the certificate a week after we sent the application and within a week of sending the certificate back, we received the layette.”
For more information on the American Red Cross Layette Program, visit their office at the Village Center, or call 830-6685.
The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society provides a different kind of assistance to new parents. Twice a month, NMCRS holds a one-time, two-hour Budget for Baby Class where parents learn how to plan for the expenses of a new baby, said Rebecca Snoke, NMCRS assistant.
After completing the class, the parents receive the ‘Baby’s First Seabag,’ a layette prepared by NMCRS with donated homemade items and brand new baby supplies bought with donated funds, averaging $150 per bag, said Snoke.
Homemade items include quilts, knitted blankets, booty socks and beanies. Bought items include crib sheets, bibs, parents’ resource baby book, baby’s first book, washcloths and rags.
The class is free, open to all ranks, and requires the expecting parent be at least three months pregnant and no more than one month postpartum. The class is held the first and third Wednesday of every month from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Both parents are welcome, but are not required to come. The maximum capacity is 10 couples per class, so reservations are required in advance.
“We show new parents how to stretch the dollar,” said Ray Caldwell, director, NMCRS. “No one really realizes the impact a new baby has on their income.”
“We also provide information to other services available to new parents, like our Visiting Nurses and the New Parent Support Program,” he added.
For more information or to reserve a seat in the Budget for Babies class, visit the NMCRS at the Village Center or call 830-6323. Community members interested in volunteering for the NMCRS, refer to the same contact information.
For almost any type of help with newborn babies or children, the New Parent Support Program keeps its doors wide open for questions, and is also available for office and home appointments, said Secret Brown, administrative assistant, NPSP.
The New Parent Support Program offers a home evaluation to families that provide helpful tips to ensure an appropriate safety environment for children. The staff is well prepared to help with issues from potty training to transitioning from baby food to solid foods or from the bottle to a cup, and tips on how to care for fussy babies.
The program also provides an eight-hour crash course in basic care of a new baby. The class covers details on the labor, delivery, postpartum, breastfeeding and safety for the baby during and after pregnancy. Fathers learn how to bathe, diaper-change and soothe a crying baby.
Registration is required prior to the Baby Basics class given on the first Thursday of the month. For more information, to make an appointment, or to register for the class, call 830-7622 or visit NPSP in building 1438.
The Marine Corps understands Marines and Sailors are dedicated to their service, so in turn, the Marine Corps is dedicated to enhance the quality of life by providing the most up-to-date resources and services. For more information, log on to the Web site http://www.usmc-mccs.org.