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Act of kindness leads to nonprofit ministry

Matt Andres ’99 and his wife, Barb, have come to see firsthand how God can take one act of obedience and turn it into a greater work. Last year, Barb was inspired to organize her friends to help a friend prepare a nursery for her second child. Then, they did the same for a relative and next a family from their church in need, and Barb and her friends formed The Nursery Project, a non-profit organization helping families in crisis deal with the birth of a child.

The first nursery project the Andreses and their friends worked on was last year for a friend of Barb’s. Her friend had learned when she was pregnant that her second child would have Down syndrome as well as other physical challenges. As her friend tried to grapple with the diagnosis, she couldn’t bring herself to work on the baby’s nursery. When Barb learned her friend was heading to the hospital to deliver, she reached out and asked how much she had done on the nursery, the friend replied, “Nothing.”

Barb said she knew she had to do something to help her friend as she dealt with her child being in the neonatal ICU. She rallied her friends and planned to paint the walls and put up some decorations. But as they contacted the mother’s family and friends, the donations surpassed their expectations. The group of friends and family spent three days transforming the nursery into a beautiful, comfortable space for the baby when he would arrive home.

Then Matt learned of the difficult situation his cousin, Shawn Edelen ’05, and his wife, Alli (Stormes ’08), were going through. In November 2017 Alli gave birth to twins, but one was deceased and the other in critical condition. Shawn’s mom reached out to Barb, who is the First Impressions Minister at Northside Christian Church in New Albany, to see if she would help coordinate the friends and family who wanted to help the family with meals and other acts of comfort while they spent time in the NICU. One of the donations that came in was from a couple at Northside who wanted to help the Edelens finish their nursery, which at that point only contained two used baby beds.

Accepting help was difficult for the Edelens, Barb said, but she encouraged them to “let people be Jesus to you.” She asked the couple if they would keep their nursery door shut while friends and family went in and out to work on it. They agreed, and the work began. Barb and Matt led the project, and she created a secret Facebook page to coordinate volunteers to paint and do other work. She was amazed as the number of volunteers grew to 250 people, of family, friends, and friends of those friends and family members. The idea for a ministry began to take root.

“It just kind of grew into this huge thing,” Barb said. “Even then I felt like God was going to use this story to do something else, and I began praying to how to let it be bigger.”

Matt also was surprised at how quickly the number of volunteers grew.

“It was very cool watching it all unfold and watching those friends simply want to help their friends and watching it blow up as people joined,” he said. “It was such a simple way to show God’s love to people.”

Ministry takes shape
After completing the Edelens’ project, a family from Northside needed help with their nursery with their baby expected to be in the NICU for several months. So Barb rallied her friends again at the beginning of 2018. After completing that project, Barb and her friends wanted to turn their occasional help into a ministry. The group met, prayed, worked out a plan, and applied for nonprofit status. The Nursery Project was born.

The Matt Andres family in spring 2017.

The Nursery Project nonprofit is run by Barb and three of her friends. Of the four, three of them work full time, and one is a stay-at-home mom of four children. So their work is done in their spare time. Their husbands pitch in with their experience, including Matt, who is an electrician. When Matt and Barb are both working on a project, they turn to family and friends to babysit their three children, ages 1 to 4.

Matt said it has been incredible seeing God work through the many volunteers involved in The Nursery Project.

“It’s a very neat thing to see happen and to watch people be blessed by it,” he said.

Barb said she is grateful for the witness of faith expressed by people’s willingness to give and to serve a family in need. Some of the volunteers or family and friends of those served by the ministry might not have a relationship with Jesus, so seeing them witness God’s love expressed through the work of all involved with The Nursery Project is a blessing. And it’s brought people of all faiths together to help as well.

“It’s good to see people cross denominations to help,” she said. “It’s just about loving people because Jesus loves us.”

The Nursery Project’s first project after receiving its nonprofit status was for a refugee family from the Congo. The single mother of seven was expecting her eighth child, and the mother and her children were struggling. The ministry, which by then had a Facebook page, called on its supporters. The volunteers spent three days cleaning and transforming the family’s apartment and readying it for the baby’s arrival.

The next project
Megan (Wheatley) Mammolenti ‘08, a classmate of Alli Edelen, was one of the many people who attended “the reveal.” She had joined The Nursery Project page on Facebook after hearing what the group had done for the Edelens. Barb had invited followers of the page to attend, and Mammolenti decided to attend because she was touched by what the group had done for expecting families in crisis.

“I started following their page on Facebook because I thought it was such an amazing thing they were doing for the families,” Mammolenti said. “While watching the videos of the reveals, I just felt so much empathy and happiness. When they did a public invite to the Mukandengo family reveal, I knew I had to go.”

At the reveal, Barb introduced herself because she noticed Mammolenti was expecting. As they talked, Mammolenti shared that her unborn baby was diagnosed with significant heart problems and will require surgery immediately after she is born. Mammolenti and her husband, Scott, will temporarily relocate to Cincinnati for the delivery and expected surgeries by specialists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for their daughter, Norah, who is due in early May.

When Barb heard her story, she immediately wanted to help. Mammolenti, who already had a nursery set up, wasn’t expecting to get help from The Nursery Project. But the couple is facing financial need with their taking off work, their temporary relocation, and Norah’s anticipated medical bills. So Barb talked with her friends serving on the nonprofit’s board, and they adapted their mission slightly to help the Mammolentis. That project will kick off soon, and the group is working on a video to tell the family’s story.

Like the Edelens, accepting help from others – especially strangers – is difficult, Mammolenti said. But when it was offered with such love, it was easier to accept.

“It’s never been easy for me to ask for help in any situation, but especially this one,” Mammolenti said. “We have been so overwhelmed with the financial aspect of temporarily relocating to deliver and have Norah’s surgery. Every little thing adds up quickly. We are just forever thankful that The Nursery Project reached out to us and offered to help however they possibly could. I think God knew we had a hard time asking for help, and he delivered.”

For more information on The Nursery Project, click here.

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