In April, shortly after the birth of her second child, Upper Arlington resident Ashlee Lawson experienced an epiphany while sorting through baby clothes, most of which she'd received as gifts or had been passed down from friends and family.

"I started to realize how much I'd been given," Lawson said.

The recognition of her own good fortune and support from others inspired Lawson to found Bundled with Love, a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide new and gently used clothing for central Ohio newborns in need.

From there, the 34-year-old Lawson, who works days as a project manager helping place high school athletes in colleges, began to examine ways Bundled with Love could have the most impact.

Through word of mouth, she began to collect infant clothing.

She then forged a partnership with OhioHealth's Wellness on Wheels women's-health program, which assists more than 250 expectant Columbus mothers a year, and she is in the process of finalizing another with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center's Moms2B program, which offers a variety of weekly resources, support and education to mothers.

Wellness on Wheels helped Bundled with Love identify newborns and mothers in need of clothing donations in the form of tote bags containing enough clothes to allow a mother to dress her child for an entire year.

"Giving back has always been a cornerstone of my upbringing," Lawson said. "I saw this opportunity to find these direct sources to help these families.

"I think any mother can understand that. You have a way to care for your child and you want every mother to succeed."

Lawson's website, bundledwithlove.org, explains her organization and its mission. The site also provides a list of items Bundled with Love currently needs.

Within its first four months of operation, Bundled with Love became a 501(c)(3) organization. It now can accept financial donations to purchase clothes to support newborns and their mothers.

On Aug. 1, Lawson set up a drop-off bin for clothing donations at Upper Arlington Public Library, 2800 Tremont Road. On Aug. 28, another bin was placed in the lobby of Bexley Public Library, 2411 E. Main St.

"Hearing Ashlee's story, it seemed she was really happy to meet a need in our community," said Ken Flower, director of advancement in community relations for the Bexley Public Library. "It made a whole lot of sense and we didn't need a lot of convincing.

"We have a lot of parents and caregivers that come to the library and we thought we'd have a lot of people who come in who could donate."

Lawson said she hopes to add drop-off bins at other locations in coming months so more clothes can be collected.

Meanwhile, OhioHealth officials said Lawson's efforts already are making positive impacts throughout central Ohio.

"When Ashlee shared this project with me, I was so impressed with her passion to give back, specifically to pregnant women in financial hardship so they could provide a good start for their newborns," said Ann Snider, annual giving manager at the OhioHealth Foundation. "She has done a great job getting this project off to a good start by collecting baby items on her own. The OhioHealth Foundation is grateful for her mission and philanthropic support for this program."

Sonia Booker, manager of OhioHealth's Wellness on Wheels women's-health program, said mothers of newborns have the best interests of their children at heart, but sometimes they lack resources.

"Providing a year's worth of clothing to these infants goes so far in helping families during that crucial first year of their baby's life," Booker said.

Lawson said she hopes Bundled with Love will be a support resource for mothers and newborns that could help chip away at the state's infant-mortality rates.

According to the most recent statistics available from the Ohio Department of Health, 1,024 Ohio infants died in 2016 before their first birthdays.

Given that Bundled with Love is itself less than 6 months old, Lawson isn't sure where the organization will go.

However, she said, family members have encouraged her to expand the organization to other parts of Ohio, and she hopes it will continue to grow so that more newborns and their mothers can be served.

"The need is tremendous," Lawson said. "There's never going to be a lack of mothers we're able to help.

"There's also so many women who want their items to be passed on to directly help other women. There's this community of motherhood, but it's not just about moms. Everyone can help."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }