LACONIA — Since 1955, the LRGH Nursery Guild has been raising money to support the youngest residents of the city. The nonprofit organization has done that, primarily, by hosting its twice-yearly “Baby Boutique,” consignment bazaars for infant and child clothing and accessories.
The next Baby Boutique will be taking place on Saturday, Oct. 19, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Laconia Community Center. The event offers a chance for people to sell their unwanted items, for young parents to outfit their children for a fraction of retail price, and for the organization to raise money they inject back into the community. And, unless something changes, the Nursery Guild’s president said, this Baby Boutique will be the last.
“We are struggling terribly,” said Shannon Allain, president and 20-year member of the Nursery Guild.
The LRGH Nursery Guild is facing twin crises. The first is that its mission, to support delivery and pediatrics at Lakes Region General Hospital, is no longer viable since those services were suspended last year. Perhaps related to that, Allain said, is the lack of volunteers willing to help put on the boutiques.
“If people don’t step up, after this boutique, it is probably going to be the last one,” Allain said.
It used to be that the guild’s monthly meetings would draw up to 30 people. Monthly meetings have long since ceased, as members stopped showing up. Now, when the organization gets together to organize and catalogue the hundreds of items for sale, she said there will probably be only about a half-dozen people to shoulder all of the work.
Allain said there’s a clear generational issue. All of the active guild members have adult children, meanwhile, they have no volunteers who have young children at home.
“Everyone that’s in the guild and works, all of our kids are all grown up now. We need young parents to come in, and bring their friends. That’s who it benefits, the young people and the children,” Allain said.
The boutiques raise about $12,000 per year. About half will be paid out to the various consigners, the rest will go to community charities.
While the Nursery Guild once had a clear purpose of supporting the operations and patients at the LRGH maternity and pediatrics wards, it has since had to find the next best way to help young families. Lately, that has meant donating their proceeds to Got Lunch!, food pantries and for summer camp scholarships.
“It’s sad that we lost the pediatrics and the maternity, we used to do so much for them. It was our purpose,” Allain said. Yet, even with those programs gone from Lakes Region General Hospital, she said the Nursery Guild, and especially the Baby Boutiques, fill an important role in the community.
“It helps many people clothe their children who would otherwise struggle,” Allain said. Some parents even get referrals from local agencies to go in after the official end of the sale, and pick out whatever they like for no charge. “Shoppers plan on this twice a year, the line starts an hour before we open,” she said.
Yet, if none of those shoppers sign up to help, they won’t have a boutique to count on next year.
“We need to get younger families, younger moms to get in there and take over,” Allain said. “Younger people are desperately needed to keep it going.”