FORT WORTH — In a Fort Worth warehouse, next to pallets of soft drinks, is something even sweeter: A white-and-ivory outpouring of support.
"We have at least 3,000 dresses, and they're still coming," said a smiling Lisa Grubbs. "We get e-mails every day. It's amazing!"
From Washington, Illinois, California and states coast-to-coast, box upon box of wedding dresses have arrived — and that's in addition to the hundreds of bridal gowns collected at a News 8 wedding dress drive last month.
All of the dresses are destined to be transformed into beautiful burial gowns for babies who never make it home from the hospital. It's one of the missions of NICU Helping Hands, a charity based in Fort Worth.
It's estimated the warehouse now holds enough wedding gowns to make 40,000 Angel Gowns. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 25,000 infants die in the United States annually.
Many parents, hoping to take a baby home from the hospital, are unprepared for tragedy. NICU Helping Hands provides unique Angel Gowns to honor the sacred birth and death of a baby.
Bridal gowns are symbolically worn with love at the beginning of a new life, and many of the donations have been accompanied by pictures, stories of loss, and notes of blessings.
Wednesday morning, the first of more than 300 volunteer seamstresses arrived, ready to lend their helping hands.
"I could hardly sleep last night I was so excited," said Karen Anderson. "I'm very honored."
She said she'll sew Angel Gowns for her four-pound baby girl — who made it.
Keishah Tanner is sewing in honor of the twin she had who didn't make it.
"Because I lost a baby and someone provided a gown for me, and I just want to pay it forward," she said.
Louise Tovarnak said she and the other ladies from her church in Plano who will sew will also pray as they piece together little pinafores for baby boys and girls.
"We will have them blessed by our priest when we give them back, too," Tovarnak promised.
NICU Helping Hands provides Angel Gowns to any hospital that asks. Since the News 8 report went viral two weeks ago, Lisa Grubbs said they have received requests from around the world.
"It's that wonderful opportunity where families are finding out how much they're really cared for, and that people do care, and their children matter," Grubbs said. "I think when you look around at all the dresses, that's what it says."
For more information about the Angel Gown project, visit the NICU Helping Hands website