Close to a mother’s heart

Geneva Carnahan believes 90 inches of fabric can change the lives of a mother and child.

That’s why the 78-year old Dayton grandmother scours stores for the best deals on material, cuts and sews it into a comfortable sling for a mother to carry her baby. The final touch is an O-shaped ring, purchased at bargain-basement prices from an Arizona retailer, to hold the sling in place.

Any mother — or father, in some cases — who comes with a child to the Heart to Heart Sling Share at Corinth Church in Belmont leaves with a carrier. Since 2010, she’s given away more than 500 slings. The next event is Sept. 7, with instruction sessions beginning at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

Carnahan and a team of volunteers, including church members and mothers who’ve received slings in the past, offer instruction on safe baby-wearing techniques, giving parents mobility while keeping their child protected near their bodies.

“People would buy these slings for $65, and nobody told them how to wear them or how to use them,” Carnahan said.

The Heart to Heart Sling Share attracts about 30 new mothers each month, and Carnahan sews about 40 slings to make sure no one leaves empty handed.

While she credits the church and the program’s volunteers for its success, they say she’s the guiding force behind the program.

“This is all about Geneva,” said Corinth Church pastor Dave Collins. “She loves babies and moms and wants to keep them together. This is her way of making it happen.”

Heart to Heart Sling Share is just the latest piece of Carnahan’s outreach to local mothers, her passion for more than 50 years. She’s been a La Leche League leader for 52 years, and spent 18 years as a lactation consultant with the Women, Infants and Children Sunrise Center office in East Dayton before retiring in April.

“I just love her to pieces,” said Melissa Courts, a mother of four who worked with Carnahan at the Sunrise Center. “I remember when this was just a dream, and it’s so successful now. The moms just love the sling.”

Carnahan said her motivation is simple.

“Mothering the mother, that’s what I want to do,” she said.

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