by Kelly James

The last time the Pittsburgh based Cribs for Kids staff was together in one room was on March 12th. There was a nervous energy in the air as they celebrated their 15th Annual Women of Achievement Awards at the Omni William Penn Hotel. The news of the Pandemic was breaking as they honored 25 of Pittsburgh’s most prominent female leaders. They said goodbye that evening, assuming they might be in store for a two-week office shutdown. They had no way of knowing that they would still be separated and that one of their own, Barbara Clemons, would succumb to the virus a little over one month later.

Barb Clemons, who was about to launch the new line, died of COVID-19 in April.

As Director of Product Development, Barb was responsible for laying out the blueprint for the growth of the organization. She was instrumental in not only the design of the organization’s infant safe sleep products but also worked with Asian markets to oversee the production and domestic importing of those products. Her primary responsibility, fulfilling orders to Cribs for Kids’ partners throughout the country, was what Barb loved to do.

She wasn’t satisfied until she was sure she had secured the best available shipping rate and that the shipments left her warehouse in pristine condition. In addition to these responsibilities, Barb was a founder of ette cetera!, a for-profit subsidiary of Cribs for Kids that would sell safe-sleep products to the general public, with 100% of the proceeds used to fulfill Cribs for Kids’ mission. As President of this subsidiary, Barb was planning a launch of ette cetera! in May of 2020.

Each year, over 3500 infants under one year of age die in sleep-related accidents.

These deaths were formerly diagnosed as SIDS. Fortunately, these unexpected and tragic losses can be prevented by following established safe sleep guidelines. Babies should always sleep (ABC) Alone, on their Backs in a safety-approved Crib.

For over 20 years, Cribs for Kids has been an industry leader in infant safe sleep.

Under the guidance of Founder and Executive Director, Judy Bannon, the Cribs for Kids staff works tirelessly to change the culture surrounding safe sleep from their headquarters in Hazelwood. Through life-saving programs such as the National Hospital Certification Program, the National Public Safety Initiative, the Managed Care Organization Program, and the Safe Sleep Ambassador Program, Cribs for Kids has expanded to include over 1800 partners throughout the United States.

In addition to these national programs, the organization offers support to local parents that have suffered pregnancy or infant loss through their Healing Hearts Program and have established an online safe sleep education website, Safe Sleep Academy.

Shouldering the loss of Barb and the shock of the Pandemic, the staff has been able to quickly adapt to working from home and continue to grow the organization. With a grant from Jefferson Regional Foundation and the guidance of Cribs for Kids Board Member Luci Casile, a Business Banker from Key Bank, they are experiencing a surge of growth through the crisis.

Luci worked tirelessly through Key Bank to assure that there would be no interruption in the organization’s mission by helping Cribs for Kids process the Government’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan. Luci, a 2017 Cribs for Kids Women of Achievement awardee, has been instrumental in the survival and growth of the organization for the last 20 years and has worked closely with Judy Bannon as a Business Banking Relationship Manager.

She has seen the organization through all of their banking needs, including the financing of their building in Hazelwood. Judy has been so impressed by Luci’s work that she wrote about her in her book, “Five Ladies and a Forklift.”

The Jefferson Regional Foundation grant has allowed Cribs for Kids to launch a new program. The At Home Program provides on-line safe sleep education and enables the shipping of Cribettes directly to the homes of partner-referred families in place of distribution at in-person events. Their work has become even more essential as families all over the nation bear the financial burden of job loss and a devastated economy.

Thanks to the help they received from the Jefferson Regional Foundation and Key Bank, in June, the staff realized Barb’s dream and launched the online baby products store, ette cetera! With the tagline, Shop to Save Lives. Every product ships with infant safe sleep education included and 100 % of the profits from ette cetera! support Cribs for Kids’ mission of helping every baby sleep safer.

Learn more about Cribs for Kids Safe Sleep Initiative at www.cribsforkids.org.

Visit the ette cetera! store and Shop to Save Lives at www.ettecetera.com.

Luci Casile, Relationship Manager, Key Bank Business Banking can be reached at 412-736-0306 or by email at Luci_casile@keybank.com.

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