Jackson County Healthy Start hosted their first annual community baby shower, affectionately known as “Baby Love”. The lobby of the Rivertown Community Church in Marianna, Florida was filled with bouncing tummies, smiling babies and heart-shaped balloons! Over 100 new and expecting mothers and their support partners mingled with one another. Their little ones enjoyed supervised play in the bounce house while they took the opportunity to learn about different resources that are available in Jackson County. As the mothers registered, they were welcomed by Chipola College’s nursing student volunteers and received a gift bag that included diapers, wipes, post-partum care items and education about SIDS, breastfeeding and pre-eclampsia. Among the twenty plus vendors were Jackson County Department of Health’s WIC and Family Planning, Gulf Coast Sexual Assault, Florida Department of Health’s PRAMS program, Jackson Hospital’s Maternity Nurses, Chipola Surgical Medical Specialties OBGYN staff, and Play Big. The Marianna Firefighters also took the time to provide education about fire safety with the approaching wild fire and fireworks season. The Pancare medical and dental buses were conveniently parked in the front of the RCC building and provided over twenty dental and medical services free of charge to everyone at the event.
Since this was a great milestone for JCHS, they wanted to add something special to put the spotlight on past JCHS participants who were going above and beyond in meeting their goals. Two local, female entrepreneurs had the opportunity to display their own work from their businesses. The founder of Glam Hair and Lash Bar and the Owner/Lead Cosmetologist of Snazzie’s Salon shared their passions with the mothers who stopped by their booths. They provided inspiration for other participants in JCHS who hope to one day become business owners themselves.
When participants weren’t enjoying the delicious food provided by RCC, they were gathered around in the lobby, patiently waiting to see if their ticket was chosen for one of the wonderful door prizes collected that day. There was a large variety of door prizes up for grabs, ranging from beautiful items for mom and baby from local boutiques including Orchard House, Luca and Bon Bon, Graco car seat and stroller traveling systems, bassinets, bouncers, free hair styles and cuts from The Cut Barber Shop and Snazzie’s Salon, over 50 free yoga and other fitness classes with memberships to FitScript, numerous gift baskets from local agencies, hand-crafted wooden growth charts, kids cookbooks, free oil changes compliments of Marianna Tires, gift certificates for yummy treats from Milk and Honey, Sonny’s Real Pit Restaurant, Gary’s BBQ Restaurant and gift cards courtesy of Sam’s Club and Marianna Walmart. No mother left empty handed!
Overall, JCHS definitely felt the “Baby Love” from the community during their first community baby shower. Thanks to the amazing staff at the RCC, Chipola Healthy Start Coalition and local agencies, the JCHS first annual community baby shower was beyond what they imagined. Jackson County Healthy Start believes that all parents left the event with a little more knowledge about being the best parents that they can be and some extra security in knowing that they don’t have to do it all by themselves!
Jackson County Healthy Start is devoted to a core value that has set them apart among service providers, “Quality is more important than quantity.” Heidi Crutchfield is a great example of mothers who credit much to Jackson County Healthy Start and her Care Coordinator, Phil Delgado.
Heidi first came to Healthy Start during a pregnancy in 2016. Unfortunately, before she began services, she informed her care coordinator that she had miscarried. Warmly offered grief counseling, she didn’t accept services, stating that she was “just going through too much at the time.” This loss was sadly only one of many for Heidi, but Healthy Start staff reassured her that if she needed them, they would always be there with open arms.
Heidi returned when she became pregnant in 2017, sharing the news that she was having twins, although the father would not be involved due to an abusive relationship. “He moved me away from my family in Florida and was physically and emotionally abusive to me,” she explained.
When Heidi found out she was pregnant, she caught the Greyhound back to Florida to live with her mother and step farther. “My mother and step father are my support. They’re so helpful and provide so much. The boys have so much stuff!” she later added.
Heidi and her twin boys, named Levi and Logan, now have a solid circle of support and love, which includes Healthy Start. “Phil was the one who helped clear my mind about the father not being in the twin’s lives. I was so depressed because I wanted him to be there and he wasn’t. Then one day, I talked with Phil about it at an appointment. He helped me see that if my ex-boyfriend abused me, he could abuse my sons. And I won’t have that for them. We all deserve better than that.”
During the time Heidi has been a Healthy Start participant, she learned a lot about being a mother to twins. Starting prenatally, she gained knowledge about body changes during pregnancy, how to be a nurturing parent, and how babies develop. She also acquired valuable information about relieving stress during pregnancy and how to love her pregnant body. “When I was pregnant, I thought I was huge and I looked like a whale. I was taught to appreciate my growing body. I learned how amazing it was that I was not only growing one baby in my belly, but two. I stopped downing myself about being pregnant.”
Healthy Start made sure Heidi was equipped with the tools she needed to get ready for Logan and Levi. “They helped me with Pack n’ Plays, and I learned about safe sleep and SIDS; babies need to sleep on their backs with nothing in the beds and by themselves... not together.” When Heidi had her twins, Healthy Start continued to make learning fun with the Ages and Stages program.
Heidi understood there was the possibility of a difficult birth due to her pre-existing medical conditions, prior miscarriages, and multiples pregnancies. Still, she treated every appointment as another opportunity to be encouraged and educated. Heidi did unexpectedly go into labor though at only 32 weeks. Some might say that nothing could have prepared Heidi for that bumpy road, but Heidi would say differently. She made it through having an emergency C-section, birthing two stunning twin boys, weighing only 3 lbs. and 2 lbs. each. Before she knew it, the boys were being transferred to Gulf Coast Medical Center’s NICU, where they received the required care.
Logan and Levi spent months at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Panama City. Even though they were a long way from home, all adapted and Healthy Start utilized a special program called, “Level E,” which allows mothers and babies who are out of the area due to hospitalization in another county to continue receiving services. Heidi was able to keep in touch with her care coordinator through weekly phone calls, providing continuous updates. Day by day, Logan and Levi progressed from needing oxygen, although Heidi admitted that she became discouraged at times, but after speaking to Phil, she was able to stay encouraged.
Now home, Heidi is breastfeeding and bottle feeding her sons, and they have made tremendous improvement. Levi is still on oxygen at home, but Heidi says that his medical provider believes he will be off soon. In the meantime, Heidi is enjoying the ups and downs of having twins. “Sometimes it can be difficult, but the good times outweigh the hard times.”
Heidi has grown from that pregnant woman walking timidly into the Healthy Start office. Unsure then about being a good mother, she has blossomed into a confident woman with goals and the dream of opening a daycare center or becoming a teacher one day. Heidi is a huge fan of Batman, who says, “It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me,” and that is what Jackson County Healthy Start helps instill in each mother that walks through their doors.
Although the core goal of the Healthy Start program is to ensure every baby has the best possible start in life, unfortunately, little Aidan came into this world weighing only 4lbs 8 oz. and had been exposed to methamphetamines the entire time he was in the womb. “He was baby doll tiny when we got custody of him at twelve days old, and he was still in the NICU,” noted foster mom and dad, Tymetra and Scott. Being born under these circumstance the concern with baby Aidan was that he would suffer from severe health problems and developmental delays.
Tymetra recalls, “We had what seemed like five minutes to decide if we could take care of him. We were then referred to Healthy Start by Mr. Robert at Innovative Charities because we needed a lot of help.” Thankfully, Aidan’s Healthy Start Care Coordinator, Janai, helped Tymetra build relationships with agencies that could help and coordinate referrals according to Aidan’s needs. Janai also secured specialty care items and clothing for Aidan.
Janai continues to track Aidan’s development and work with Tymetra using the Ages and Stages (ASQ3) curriculum, which is an assessment tool that provides parents with guidance regarding the developmental status of their across five developmental areas: communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving, and personal-social. The ASQ3 is the most accurate, family-friendly way to screen children for developmental delays between one month and 5½ years.
Tymetra stated, “You can look at him as see God is in this baby. I would encourage moms to take full advantage of the program and all it offers. There’s so much you just don’t know about childhood development and the services that are there to help you. Healthy Start was there for us, and the services they offer were far more than I would have ever known to seek.”
Shanae Boston serves as Care Coordinator for Jackson County Healthy Start. Displaying awesome dedication to her clients, Shanae goes above and beyond the call of duty to find resources for clients who can’t find what they need. Serving JCHS since 2015, she is a Certified Lactation Consultant, FOCEP Certified, and a Certified Peer Companion through the TEARS Foundation. Shanae can also be seen spearheading the car seat program as the Jackson County’s liaison for acquiring car seats. She continues to provide the much-needed guidance and assistance to many mothers throughout Jackson County.
Chipola Healthy Start Coalition, along with the Jackson County Healthy Start Program, hosted a Walk to Remember on Friday, October 14 at Citizen’s Lodge in Marianna. Walk to Remember is a national event dedicated to babies who die each year through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, or infant death. Preceding the remembrance ceremony, families and loved ones created memory tiles in honor of their babies. Pastor Barbara Lee from All Things New Ministries officiated the remembrance ceremony followed by a short walk lead by moms and other family members who experienced their own loss, which concluded with a bubble release.
Families were given candles, along with commemorative matchbooks, to light during the Wave of Light on October 15, which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day. On this day, everyone was invited to light a candle at 7 pm in all times zones, all over the world. If everyone lights a candle at this time and keeps it burning for one hour, it will create a continuous wave of light across the globe to help honor all those babies who were lost too soon.
The Coalition is a proud participant in Walk to Remember and remains committed to eliminating all preventable infant mortality, as well as providing support to all families who experience this great loss.
The Jackson County NAACP held their annual luau, where CHSC and Jackson County Healthy Start staff enjoyed a festive activity, providing useful information and resources to those who visited their station. Organizations and officials from throughout the county participated.
The Healthy Start team focused on educating attendees about the many benefits of breastfeeding, the importance of preconceptual/interconceptual health, how to protect one’s self from the Zika virus, and how to be safe during the summer.
The event was held at Madison Park in Marianna and was a fun afternoon of games, prizes, dancing, and food for all in attendance. Old favorites, such as the hula hoop and musical chairs really brought down the house.
Stress during pregnancy can lead to health complications for both mom and baby. These complications include high blood pressure and the onset of preterm labor. To help women learn how to better manage their stress and boost self-esteem, the Jackson County Healthy Start Program hosted a free Spa Day. Moms and moms-to-be participating in the program were treated to an afternoon of relaxation and fun.
During the event, participants also learned ways to reduce stress during pregnancy and how to pamper themselves. Moms were also able to connect with other mothers in the area and build their support network, which also helps to reduce stress during pregnancy and after baby arrives.
The staff of CHSC had the good fortune to meet Beverly Harrison at a Christmas craft fair hosted by the Jackson County Senior Citizens Organization in Marianna. She was selling Christmas ornaments and other decorative pieces she crocheted by hand. Short after this chance encounter, Miss Beverly volunteered her time and crochet talents to make 400 newborn caps to be distrusted at CHSC’s Third Annual Community Baby Shower in April. At last count, Miss Beverly has finished over 200 newborn caps in all sorts of colors and patterns with no signs of slowing down.
"It takes about two and a half hours to complete one cap. But, this is fun for me. In the evenings, I watch TV and it gives me something to do with my hands." When asked what inspired her to commit to such an outstanding project, Miss Beverly added, "I love children. I have three step-children, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. But, I was never able to carry any of my own. So I know that’s one reason why I do it. Also, I’m helping moms and children who don’t have someone to turn to in times of need and everyone needs someone to turn to in times of need."
Miss Beverly also stated that she is willing to teach anyone who might be interested to make these caps or any other baby items. She went on to say, "This is a fading art. You never know if one day you might be able to go to the store and buy these kinds of things and then what would you do? Plus, sometimes you just have to step outside of yourself and help someone else."