What a beautiful city Seattle is and a great place to serve!  The PV Volunteers spent each day doing something different but I chose to reflect on our time at Westside Baby.  So today we’re off to recycle infant car seats, more about this later and what exactly that means. Since arriving in Seattle we’ve been introduced to a way of living that all states should take note.  Everything possible is recycled. And you better learn quickly what specific “can” things go in – trash, recycle, compostable.

Upon our arrival at Westside Baby we were given a tour of this large facility. The organization of anything needed for babies and toddlers is incredible. There are rows, rows, and more rows of neatly packed and labeled totes.  There is the clothing area, the diaper area, the toy area, the car seat area, the book area, the area for high chairs, walkers, etc.  You get the idea.

A thorough explanation of how these items are dispensed to families in need was given and also the sophisticated system where social agency workers can place an order online for clients and their needs.  Orders are filled and placed on shelves for pickup within a week.

And of course, we also saw the mounds of gently-used clothing that needed to be sorted and put away.  The car seat, toy and accessory area was fascinating.  Any donated item is cross checked in volumes of catalogs to make sure the item has not been recalled.  Every car seat is put through a rigorous safety check as well, a time-consuming process for volunteers.   It was explained that Westside Baby accepts all car seats and then weeds out unsafe or outdated seats.  A car seat is automatically put in the car seat graveyard if it is older than six years.

From here car seats are either cleaned and put on the shelves, with an instruction manual, or stacked outside to be dismantled for recycling.  Here is where the PV Volunteer work day began.  The car seats needed to be torn down so all metal and plastic are separated.  PV Volunteers spent the better part of the day, with the assistance of Gary, doing this.  In a short time we all became adept at using the tools provided.  We picked a great day for this outside work site, sunny and warm (not the Seattle rain we expected) and there was much cheering as the last car seat was tossed on top of the pile of scrap plastic.

Last year 22,000 clients were served by Westside Baby. What a successful operation!  The need is so great.  And this only works because of the generosity of the local folks who bring donations and also the many volunteers who pour over those donations to get them ready for clients.  There is even a retired librarian who organizes the book area.  An age-appropriate book is included in every order placed.

When we left Westside Baby, the huge mountain of car seats in the graveyard was our reward of a job well done.  And reflecting upon the clients of Westside Baby, I could easily  picture the beautiful face of an infant snuggled in a blanket or safely secured in a car seat, all provided by Westside Baby.  What a perfect way to end our service week in Seattle!

Kathy Koller

Kathy and her husband Chuck and their three children began volunteering in 1997. The have spent part of each summer in WV and participated in the inaugural trip to Seattle.