The boxes that Joyce Powers and her cohorts decorate could be meant as gifts for anybody. With flowers, sweeping designs, and colorful patterns, the cardboard creations evoke a sense of hand¬crafted caring.
However, the Colville Memory Box Group (CMBG) doesn’t fashion these particular containers for just anyone. The locally based nonprofit organization donates the boxes to hospitals across the country, which in turn give them to grieving parents whose babies die soon after birth. The boxes can be filled with locks of the child’s hair, stuffed animals, blankets, medical bracelets and other mementos to help offer comfort to grieving parents.
“It’s a way to acknowledge what they are going through while honoring the baby’s life, even if it was very short,” said Powers, the group’s coordinator.
According to a study from the advocacy group Save the Children, about 11,300 newborn U.S. babies die per year. According to the report, this is the highest first-day infant mortality rate of any other country in the industrialized world.
The United States’ rate of first-day infant death is 50 percent more than all the other industrialized countries in the report combined.
The CMBG has been meeting monthly at Pinewood Terrace Nursing Home since March 2008. To date, the group has painted and shipped 631 boxes to various hospitals around the country.
The group purchases all their own supplies, and pays to mail the boxes to the national program, The Memory Box Artist Program, Inc. (go to www.memorybox.org  for more information).
Powers says around four to eight people turn up for the monthly painting sessions, but “We are always hoping for more.”
“Anyone can come participate,” Powers said. “If you have a sympathetic heart for what these parents have to go through, we encourage you to come visit us and work on a box.”
Members of the group search yard sales, thrift stores or friends’ houses for clean, gently used and stored paper Mache boxes. Donations of said items are most welcome, says Powers. Boxes should be 6 1/2 - 7" X 3" in round, square or heart shapes with no damage and no odors.
The next CMBG meeting will be Sunday, July 21 at Pinewood Terrace from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
For more information, go to the CMBG Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CovilleMemoryBoxes .