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Providing a ‘sweet start’ for newborns

By The Health News Team | April 8, 2019
Providing a ‘sweet start’ for newborns

Baby items are collected for families in San Diego's East County thanks to an event organized by the Sharp Grossmont OBGYN Unit Practice Council and Volunteer Services. Pictured (left to right) are Linda Van Fulpen, Alison Ingram and Monica De La Mora.

The author H. Jackson Brown said that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more. That sentiment is at the heart of Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s latest initiative to help the tiniest patients in communities served by the hospital.

Called the Sweet Start Family Donation Program Baby Shower, the event is held every April and organized by Sharp Grossmont’s OBGYN Unit Practice Council and Volunteer Services. Doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers team up and collect diaper bags along with thousands of diapers, wipes and other newborn baby supplies, which are given to underserved families who need a little extra help.

“Our hospital service area has a diverse patient population, often including refugees, teen moms, single mothers and those living well below the poverty level,” says Alison Ingram, RNC-MNN, nurse educator in the OBGYN unit.

“Being able to provide a few basic baby necessities to families means that parents or caregivers can go home feeling a little less overwhelmed during an already overwhelming time.”

“Even if the supplies only get them through the first several days home with baby, this helps get them off to a ‘sweet start,’” she says.

A culture of caring and giving back
All the units throughout the hospital participate and donate diaper bags stuffed with newborn essentials, as well as boxes of diapers, baby bottles, receiving blankets, handcrafted clothing, quilts, booties, toys and other items.

“Our Grossmont family is a very generous group and when we started doing this in 2019, we had a feeling it would be something many folks would be interested in,” Ingram says.

The event came about because staff kept asking if they could donate baby items for the nearly 3,000 babies delivered at Sharp Grossmont every year. The hospital can now use this new formal process for accepting newborn donations.

Linda Van Fulpen, volunteer services manager, helps to operationalize the event and enlists the support of nearly 200 volunteers to ensure the collection process runs smoothly.

“The volunteers are happy to be part of the project,” says Van Fulpen. “We also made it a goal to have at least one handcrafted clothing item made by our volunteers that will be added to the diaper bags for the newborns,” she says.

The volunteers are often the backbone of hospital projects helping the East County community. Last year alone, more than 625 volunteers, including 25 therapy dogs, provided nearly 95,000 hours of service. This is the most in the Sharp system and second highest in San Diego County.

Serving a diverse community
Sharp Grossmont serves the greater East County San Diego community including La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove, Lakeside, Spring Valley and Santee. According to data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 five-year American Community Survey, 1 of every 7 people living in East County, or 14.1% of the population, live in poverty. The rates vary across East County cities from 7.8% in Santee to 24.2% in El Cajon.

Among those most affected are children likely to live in a household with below-poverty incomes, especially in El Cajon and Lemon Grove.

“Sometimes people living in difficult circumstances have lost faith in the medical system and a kind gesture may be a turning point for them,” says Ingram. “They may also be more likely to follow through with follow-up care for themselves and their newborn.”

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