Surrounded by cartons of baby formula and stacks of onesies, books, bibs and toys stacked neatly on tables for anyone to take, a smiling Giovanna Andrews bends down, opens a book and starts reading to a rapt toddler.
Andrews conceived of and launched the Thousand Bib and Book Giveaway inside the Wilmington Public Library — her second significant effort to support young mothers and moms to be. Less than a year ago, Andrews, who has a young child of her own, launched the nonprofit Harper’s Heart as a way to give back.
On this day of generosity and joy, she is surrounded by dozens of families filling shopping bags with early childhood essentials that Andrews and her Harper’s Heart team of volunteers have collected for distribution.
Trusting that her team can handle the logistics, Andrews stays focused on the little one-and-a-half-year-old little girl so her mom can ‘shop.’ The youngster squeals with delight with every turn of the page.
“This is why I do this – I love interacting with young families and little babies and offering them help. Because not too long ago, I was just like these moms – in crisis and struggling to find help for me and my little baby,” said Andrews.
Andrews says that while giving away free items is important, her Thousand Bib and Book Giveaway is part of a larger reading and literacy mission. “I want young moms to read to their babies and children so they are exposed to education at an early age.”
Harper’s Heart founder Giovanna Andrews received Jefferson Award
On April 29th, Andrews received a 2019 Jefferson Award for “Outstanding Service Benefitting Local Communities” for developing a successful nonprofit to help mothers in need. Andrews will represent Delaware at the National Jefferson Awards for Public Service ceremony in Washington, DC next month.
Andrews says she “simply cannot put into words” the overwhelming feeling of affection and affirmation she felt when the Delaware Chapter of the Jefferson Awards for Public Service reached out to her telling her she would be winning an award. “I have never been recognized for anything before. And my organization is so new. It affirmed that what I do really matters,” she said.
Harper’s Heart, which Andrews named after her 14-month-old daughter Isabella Harper Andrews, is not yet a 501-C3 and is less than a year old. But her organization already has a strong presence on social media and a growing awareness among Wilmington area social service agencies, who are drawn to the simplicity of Andrew’s notion that providing young families essential items, at no cost, is a good idea and good for the soul.
Young families appreciate free essentials at ‘Thousand Bib and Book Giveaway’
“I heard about this from the YWCA. They are always looking out for opportunities like this for young families,” said Sheema Porter.
Porter is always hunting for ways to save as she raises her two young children. “There are so many wonderful things here for young moms like me. But what I really appreciate are the books. I want to get my kids off of tablets and read to them more. I am just so appreciative of what they’re doing for young moms,” she said.
The Wilmington Public Library donated most of the 1,000 books that Harper’s Heart distributed on May 4th. Donations of larger toys, infant furniture, clothing, shoes, towels, baby formula, toiletries, bibs, blankets, even cases of water came from other organizations, church groups and generous individuals. Volunteers held a free raffle giveaway for a beautiful new bassinet.
Giovanna Andrews launches Harper’s Heart as a way to give back
TSD first met Andrews at her Thousand Diaper Giveaway at the Kingswood Community Center in January. The community response was so overwhelming that Andrews had to go home to fetch more supplies to satisfy the needs of the hundreds of moms who showed up for free diapers, clothing and other baby items.
Andrews told us then about her personal story of being pregnant, and later a young mother, and having to turn to strangers for financial support. She was just 21 and in her last semester of college in Pennsylvania – with no means of supporting herself – when Isabella was born.
She turned to the Your Loving Choices crisis pregnancy center in Bloomsburg, where the young mom learned valuable parenting skills and earned “mommy bucks” that she could redeem to “shop” for baby essentials for her daughter. Those mommy bucks came from donations from people she would never be able to meet or thank.
That feeling of gratitude served as the inspiration for Andrews to launch Harper’s Heart. “As I reflected on my pregnancy journey and looked at the items I received from faceless donors, I could not help but be inspired. I knew there were people out in the world that loved my daughter and me who I could never thank. I would never have the chance to tell them their gently used onesie made a huge impact on our lives.”
Andrews says Harper’s Heart is on a quest to redefine social service. Their slogan is “Where Service Meets Love,” and they plan to offer more giveaways in the near future. If you would like to donate, you can reach them at [email protected]. You can also follow them on Instagram at @Harpers_Heart.