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Fundraising a challenge as S.D. group aids mothers

  • Basha Badada looks for sizes to fit her son, Abdalla, 1, at the Teddy Bear Den.

    By Jay Pickthorn,, (Sioux Falls, S.D.) Argus Leader

    Basha Badada looks for sizes to fit her son, Abdalla, 1, at the Teddy Bear Den.

The group lucked out when anonymous donors stepped up with $10,500, enough to buy 75 cribs. But the experience shows how difficult fundraising has become in the past few years in this city of 155,000.

“Everybody is going in to ask the same individuals and the same businesses, and they, like everyone else, have to cut back,” says Sandy Lown, the group’s executive director.

The Teddy Bear Den, which operates out of a small space at the Calvary Episcopal Cathedral in downtown, offers free baby items such as clothing, strollers, diapers, bottles and other necessities to new and expecting low-income mothers. But there’s a catch. Clients earn points to purchase the items through doctor visits, counseling, staying in school and other services.

The group works with about 220 health care providers and other agencies who verify appointments and make sure that lifestyle choices exclude alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

By Jay Pickthorn, (Sioux Falls, S.D.) Argus Leader

Teddy Bear Den executive director Sandy Lown, left, tally’s points for Shannon Hamilton during a trip to the non-profit on Nov. 10. Hamilton is due with her first child on Dec. 30.

State officials who are studying ways in which to reduce expenses for Medicaid hope to duplicate the program in other parts of the state, says Deb Bowman, a senior adviser to Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

“It’s really helped me out,” says Basha Badada, an immigrant from Ethiopia who has been in the program for a year. Badada was shopping for winter clothing for her young son. She also is pregnant with a girl.

Shannon Hamilton, who is expecting a girl at the end of December, picked out pink clothing in her first trip to the Teddy Bear Den. She had earned points from doctor and dentist visits and from taking educational classes.

“I think it’s a great idea,” she says of the program.

While finding dollars for services has become more challenging, finding clients hasn’t been a challenge. Two years ago, the group had 733 clients. Now the number is 945.

“We’ve seen numbers that we never thought we would see,” Lown says.

Ellis also reports for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls.