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Foundation helps families who lose babies to birth defects

An ornately decorated tree in the foyer of the Women’s Care Center at Haywood Regional Medical Center will help families who have lost children at, or shortly after, birth because of birth defects.

Jonathan’s Christmas Tree and the numerous hand-painted ornaments displayed on it were donated by Terry Thompson of Waynesville. Thompson has collected the ornaments over the past 20 years, but there were too many to put on one tree.

“I had decided to donate a tree with the ornaments to the Women’s Care Center so new mothers and their families could enjoy them,” said Thompson, owner of Vin Wine and Tapas Bar in Waynesville. “When I heard about the Classic Wineseller Foundation, I thought what a good way to help start the fund-raising for that effort,” she said.

Classic Wineseller employees started the foundation Dec. 1 as a tribute to baby Jonathon, the son of employee Rachel Whitmire, who died shortly after birth on Dec. 1, 2006.

“I found out last September that my baby had polycystic kidney disease. I had no amniotic fluid, so my baby’s only nourishment was through the umbilical cord,” Whitmire said. “Knowing my baby would not live, I had to carry him full term until December.”

Jonathan lived for about one hour, just long enough for his mother to say goodbye.

Four years earlier, the baby of another Wineseller server, Jenna Ray, lived only six months after birth. The entire time the baby was alive, Ray stayed at his side in the hospital.

Classic Wineseller owner Richard Miller saw the anguish and financial difficulty both women had gone through after the death of their babies. He wanted to do something that would help families in similar situations, so he helped get the Classic Wineseller Foundation started.

“All employees donate $1 every shift they work to the foundation throughout the year, which comes out of their paycheck before taxes. We also are planning to seek grants and have a benefit dinner to raise money,” Miller said.

The goal is to raise at least $10,000 each year for the foundation, he said.

Employees of Classic Wineseller will oversee the foundation and will meet periodically to decide grants, he said. The money will provide assistance to families whose financial resources are limited.

“Rachel will serve as president of the foundation and my only veto will be used, for example, if I think too much money is being allocated to one application,” Miller said.

The foundation members will put Jonathan’s Christmas Tree up each year and will take it down and store it at the end of each Christmas season.

For inquiries about the foundation or to make a contribution, call Richard Miller at 828.452.6000 or write to The Classic Wineseller, 20 Church St., Waynesville, N.C. 28786.

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