It was the “saddest, darkest, loneliest part of my life.”

In May 2008, Emily Harry delivered a son stillborn at 36 weeks.

Now, she and two other women who delivered children who were stillborn or died within a few hours of birth are launching Baby Bundles, a nonprofit that provides new mothers in financial need with a bag of infant essentials.

With seed money from the three founders’ families, and operating with a projected annual budget of $53,000, Baby Bundles is teaming with Presbyterian Healthcare and the Nurse-Family Partnership, a program of Care Ring.

The group in November made its first delivery, a handful of bags for the Nurse-Family Partnership, which provides support for first-time, low-income mothers.

Its initial goal at Presbyterian is to serve 20 to 35 uninsured mothers per month at its main hospital and later serve mothers there receiving Medicaid support. That equates to about 200 bags per month.

Each bag, with contents worth about $150, includes gently used and new clothing, plus an age-appropriate book and toy.

“This is important to the three of us because we cannot prevent children from being stillborn or dying, but we can focus our energy on helping mothers and their children who need a better start in life,” says Harry, a 13-year veteran at Wells Fargo & Co. on a three-year leave of absence.

After Harry lost her son in 2008, childhood friend Heather Leavitt reconnected with her.

Leavitt, a retired MCI employee, had delivered two stillborn children and a third who died a few hours after birth.

“When you lose a child,” Harry says, “you are in a special club that no one ever wants to be a part of, so you just sort of cling to each other.”

Harry and Leavitt connected with Cat Long, a former media buyer, Junior Achievement program director and pharmaceutical sales representative who had delivered a stillborn daughter at 36 weeks in April 2006.

Baby Bundles is an all-volunteer organization, with Harry serving as board chair. Leavitt and Long are vice chairs.

The group on Dec. 13 mailed its first fund-raising appeal to a small group of family friends. This month, it will distribute an appeal to a larger audience.

Baby Bundles is purchasing clothing that may be slightly imperfect from local wholesalers. It also wants to get other mothers involved, and is asking people in the community to donate used clothing that may be “just collecting dust in the attic.”

The group has launched a website at www.babybundlesnc.org, which will include a feature that lets visitors make online contributions.

Its founders are dedicating Baby Bundles to the five children they have lost.

“While they are not with us,” says Harry, who gave birth to twins in 2009, “this organization is a way to honor them and keep them in other people’s minds.”

~ Premium content from Charlotte Business Journal – by Todd Cohen