Warm clothes and ricotta for babies

Gently used baby clothes gathered by Glebe-St James volunteers are sorted, sized and freshly washed, ready for shipping to Nunavut.

Photos: Marisa Romano

 By Marisa Romano

A message posted by Tanya Lary on Facebook’s Buy Nothing the Glebe on January 16 reads:

“Looking for: Gently used baby clothes (not summer clothes), blankets and snowsuits for babies and toddlers up to two years old, in support of One Plane Away (OPA), an Iqaluit-based charitable organization that provides much needed support to babies throughout the communities in Nunavut. A group of people from Glebe St. James is collecting and shipping the items to Nunavut.”

Shortly after, donations started flowing in: cozy sleepers, warm rompers, cold-defeating blankets, snowsuits, hats, mittens and boots, alongside adorable outfits for boys and girls. Glebe residents overwhelmingly responded to the call. “This project is part of our Glebe-St James (GSJ) reconciliation journey,” says Marsha Hay-Snyder, one of the coordinators of the “mom and baby project.” The church community has become aware of the everyday challenges for moms and babies in northern communities through OPA and decided to help.

Born in 2015 from an idea by Caris Madsen, OPA is an all-volunteer-driven, non-profit charitable organization that has grown from a local body to a nation-wide force now stretching overseas. Madsen was a Grade 10 student in Iqaluit and an occasional babysitter when she became aware of the harsh reality for moms in northern communities, where essentials such as clothing, diapers and bottles for their babies are hard to come by. During a video call with the women engaged in GSJ’s “mom and baby project,” Madsen recalled her earlier trips to Southern Ontario where she visited her grandmother and filled suitcases with baby clothes to bring back home.

To date, thanks to donations received, the small OPA’s headquarter in Iqaluit has packaged and distributed more than 1,000 care boxes to babies all over Nunavut, including 25 communities accessible only by air or water.

OPA executive director Celeste Gotell – the first paid staff hired by OPA – told GSJ that the organization cannot currently keep up with the requests for care boxes, mostly because of limited availability of some supplies, volunteer time and storage space. Her plan is to acquire corporate donations and form partnerships with other organizations to increase distribution capacity. GSJ wants to play a role in that.

By mid-February, Lary’s call to babies and their parents had generated 12 large bags of items sorted, sized and freshly washed (limited access to washing facilities is another reality of the North), ready for shipping to Nunavut by the end of February.

“We are very grateful for the generous donations of Glebe community,” says Hay-Snyder. “We encourage people to keep donations coming. Our plan is to keep sending boxes of clothing and blankets to moms and babies in the North as often as we have items to fill a box.”

All donations can be dropped off at Glebe-St. James United Church. For contact information and office hours: www.glebestjames.ca.

A big thank you to all Buy Nothing babies who donated their warm, gently used clothes, and to their parents who packed bags and boxes and arranged for pick up by Lary and her son Jack.

Ricotta is a fresh, soft, mild cheese of Italian origin, low in salt and lactose, rich in calcium and proteins. It is easily digested and can be introduced into babies’ diet as soon as infants are ready for dairy products. Serve it as is or mixed with fruit or veggies. One favourite recipe of all Italian toddlers is Pasta with Tomato and Ricotta. Add ricotta cheese to a tomato sauce made without garlic and with very little onion – both potential irritants to young digestive systems – and mix with cooked pasta.


Tuscan gnudi

(Ricotta and spinach gnocchi)



300 g frozen spinach, thawed

1 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, drained

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup flour

1 egg

¼ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp salt

1/3 cup butter

1 sprig of sage


Squeeze the spinach with your hands to get rid of all water (a critical step). Chop finely with a knife.

In a bowl add spinach, ricotta, egg, ½ cup of parmesan, flour, nutmeg and salt. Mix well. Make small-walnut-size balls with your hands and roll them in flour (coat well).

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Gently immerse the gnocchi in the water. When they rise to the surface, scoop them up with a slotted spoon.

Melt butter with sage, pour over the gnocchi and sprinkle with the rest of parmesan. Good also when served with a tomato sauce.

Marisa Romano is a foodie and scientist with a sense of adventure and fun, who appreciates interesting people and nutritious foods.

CBC’s Heather Hiscox interviewed Caris Madsen in December 2022. The recording “Nunavut’s babies get special care from One Plane Away” is available on YouTube. https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2151659075799

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