Think back to the last time one of your family members was expecting a baby. Remember all of the beautiful gifts they got at their baby shower? It’s hard to imagine, but there are many moms-to-be in St. Louis who don’t have a support system to help them provide all of the clothing, toys and odds-and-ends that a baby needs in its first months of life.
Nurses for Newborns was founded in 1992 with the goal of providing support for at-risk families and keeping babies healthy and safe during those fragile first months, says executive director Melinda Ohlemiller. “First and foremost, we’re health care providers, providing health screenings and assessments,” she says. “We also provide parent education and support, in addition to material supplies that help bridge the gap for families in emergencies.” The nonprofit serves about 3,000 families each year, with a nurse visiting families starting during pregnancy, and continuing up to two years as needed, she says.
Families are referred to Nurses for Newborns for a variety of reasons—either because the baby is medically fragile, the mother is a teen mom or has medical concerns of her own, or for a number of other risk factors, Ohlemiller says. But visits by a nurse can help address that wide variety of needs, making a huge difference in the baby’s ability to thrive, she adds.
For example, at the upcoming A Night for Newborns dinner auction, a former client will speak about her experience with the nonprofit. “This is a young mom we served some 10 years ago, who talks about how having the nurse there was so critical to her staying in school and getting an education. She’s now the leader at a St. Louis-area company,” Ohlemiller says. “For teen moms, one of the big goals is to keep her in school because her ability to long-term parent that child is going to be greatly enhanced if she finishes her high school degree. This woman had a scholarship to go to college and she was not going to go. Your long-term goals feel impossible when you’re sitting there with a 3-week-old looking to you for everything. But to have a professional who you grow to trust who says, You can do this, you can absolutely stay in school and work toward your life goals—our nurses become confidantes in many cases.”
In addition to medical and emotional support, the material needs of the 3,000 families served by Nurses for Newborns are no small order themselves: Those 3,000 babies go through 10,000 diapers a day, Ohlemiller says. “I can’t imagine how this would work without the support of the community. Every day, people bring us used baby clothes, furniture and baby items, and we have a whole cadre of volunteers who help us recycle that and get it into the homes of families who desperately need it,” she notes. “These families often have no baby shower and no welcome-home presents. So for a nurse to be able to walk in with a few things for the baby that says, Your community loves you and welcome to the world—it looks small, but for them, it’s huge.”
The Night for Newborns dinner auction will take place on April 27 at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac with an expected 450 guests, Ohlemiller notes. “We have the most amazing array of auction items you’ve ever seen, from a basket you can take home for $25 to exciting trips and vacation homes,” she says. The nonprofit also will present its McGraw Milhaven Award to Spoke Marketing, with help from presenting sponsor World Wide Technology and longtime corporate supporter Carrollton Bank.
On the Cover: Tickets are still available for A Night for Newborns, a benefit for Nurses for Newborns, on April 27 at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac. Pictured on the cover: In back: Jenny Reed, Melinda Ohlemiller, Snotrena Dethrow, Eileen Hamburg. In front: Debbie Allen, Tom and Suzanne Hough. For more information, call 544-3433 or visit nfnf.org.