Teddy Bear Den Celebrates 20 Years Of Helping Mothers
"When you walk through this door, no one judges you."
Being a first time mother can be difficult and doing it all at a young age or without the financial means can make it that much more difficult. But for the last two decades, one organization has been working to make it a little bit easier for mothers.
“When you’re 17 and pregnant, most of the world judges you and when you walk through this door, no one judges you.”
Instead of judgement, Megan Brennan found a second family when she walked through the doors in downtown Sioux Falls at age 17.
“Every time I came here I felt like I was doing something good for me, I was doing something good for my daughter, they got to know me by name,” Brennan recalled.
That’s been 20 years in the making.
“Back then, we didn’t really have any kind of program like this in south Dakota or in Sioux Falls,” recalled co-founder Stephanie Perry. “We were at a March of Dimes meeting somewhere and they kept talking about organizations called the Storks Nest which was basically a closet.”
She explained that the Storks Nest was located in California where once in a while they would open it up to mothers to come and get items like diapers, food, etc. for their children.
That’s when Stephanie Perry and Carol Flynn thought, “we can do better than that.” Turning a room at the Episcol Church in downtown Sioux Falls into the Teddy Bear Den.
“Now you see a beautifully set up store, almost of all these baby clothes. Well we had to really search and work at that time,” explained Carol Flynn, co-founder of the Teddy Bear Den.
So they turned to the community, “Asked if they’d donate, of course, for money or they would have a baby shower, we called them, and they would bring in items for the Teddy Bear Den,” Flynn said.
From stores to hospitals, which Perry, Flynn and executive director Sandy Lown say the Teddy Bear Den wouldn’t be what it is today without the help from the medical community
“Attending their doctors appointments, we go until their children are 15 months old so, well baby check ups, it’s not smoking, drinking or using drugs, it’s immunizing their children,” explained Lown.
The doctors and hospitals, as well as other organizations within the community, helped donate resources but all of that was providing more than just clothes, diapers, books and check ups.
“We have lived by the mission of healthy pregnancies, healthy women and a healthier community and we have done that through an incentive and education based program where our ladies have to out and earn points for living their healthy lifestyle,” said executive director of the Teddy Bear Den Sandy Lown.
A program, Megan says, that made her proud to be a mom.
“To be able to come here and get her diapers, a new toy or a new outfit for her birthday or a holiday… and know that I had earned it, it really made me feel proud,” Megan Brennan said, who walked got helped from the Teddy Bear Den when she was 17 recalled. “And, also, doing all the things I needed to do to earn points really set the stage for me to become a successful parent.”