I just received an email from my daughter's preschool asking parents to dig through their attics in search of spare baby items to donate. It seems that area charities are running out of money and goods to help new moms and dads care for their new babies. Parents without the wherewithal to buy a crib are being encouraged to have their infants sleep in laundry baskets. This recommendation strikes me as resourceful and better than many alternatives I've heard over the years (i have an acquaintance whose parents put him to bed in a bureau drawer as a tot), but also reminds me of the growing strain on charities--a situation that will get much, much worse before this downturn is over.

It's a cruel irony that charitable donations tend to drop off in a bad economy, just as they are most desperately needed. So while I'm far from the first to mention this problem, I feel compelled to sound a call for help (especially with the weekend approaching): All you packrats keep in mind that now is the perfect time to do a little pre-spring cleaning. Purge those closets and basements and garages of unwanted baby stuff (or old clothes or household goods or out-of-date computers or whatever) and call up your local Goodwill or homeless shelter or Catholic church.

In addition to helping out those struggling to get by, just think of all the brownie points you'll win from your spouse for finally getting rid of useless space-wasters like your lucky college gym socks. 

(On a more local note: Anyone in the DC area who'd like info on how to have cribs, strollers, or other baby essentials picked up from their home check out awidercircle.org.)

--Michelle Cottle