Emergency Infant Services marks 40 years caring for Tulsa’s youngest.
Volunteers at Emergency Infant Services sort donations.
Forty years ago, Linda Watts joined forces with the Second Presbyterian Church of Tulsa to form Emergency Infant Services (EIS).
According to Watts, EIS family services coordinator and former executive director, a local fund for babies’ milk had recently run dry, leaving low-income mothers and infants underserved.
“My heart was with young mothers and children, and it was important that they had nutrients and care from birth,” Watts says. “At the beginning, we collected mainly milk and food. We also started a big campaign for baby beds because we realized a lot of mothers didn’t have beds for their babies. Back then, there weren’t Pack ‘n’ Plays.”
Watts, while raising a family of her own, worked diligently to provide assistance to families in need. She often enlisted her husband, Gary, and their son to do the heavy lifting.
“That church had stairs all over the place,” she recalls. “The baby bed campaign had gone wild, and the only room for the beds was on the upper floor. So, I got my son, who was big and strong, to carry them up there.
“He ended up on the U.S. Olympic volleyball team and thinks it was because he carried all those cribs up those stairs.”
Since then, EIS has grown to serve over 17,000 infants and toddlers annually by providing items like food, formula, diapers and clothes from four Tulsa locations. Clients can receive assistance up to four times per year. Watts says cities including Oklahoma City and Austin, Texas, have modeled their own services after EIS in Tulsa.
As the organization embarks on its fourth decade, Tina Massey, EIS office manager, says it looks to expand its reach with Tulsa’s youngest citizens. “As we go into our 40th anniversary in 2017, our hope is to increase the assistance we provide and offer help to as many as 50 percent of the 45,000 children living in poverty in the community,” she says.