As guests began to arrive for the John’s Island Community Service League’s Opening Luncheon at the John’s Island Club last Monday, Hope Woodhouse, JICSL vice president, was eager for them to hear from guest speaker Andrea Berry, CEO of Indian River County Healthy Start Coalition. In April, HSC received $35,000 for its Doula Program from the recently formed Strategic Grants Committee.
“I think the Healthy Start Coalition is on an upswing,” said Woodhouse. “There’s real collaboration going on with all the different county groups and those collaborations are going great.”
In her welcome, Pat Thompson, JICSL president, related that in 2017 more than $930,000 in grants was donated toward the operational expenses of 38 nonprofit organizations and scholarships to children of John’s Island employees.
Emphasizing the luncheon’s ‘Bloom Where We Are Planted’ theme, Thompson added, “The seeds that we’ve sown in this community foster life-saving programs like Healthy Start. We have planted a field of dreams and we are growing bigger and better than ever before.”
Berry said there are roughly 1,200 births annually in Indian River County, but added that many are not born into environments that immediately foster health, happiness and success.
Citing some alarming county statistics, she said 50 percent of mothers receive Medicaid services, 70 percent have a high school diploma or less, and 50 percent are unmarried. Seven percent are teen mothers; a number higher than neighboring counties, the state average and even that of Miami Dade County.
Berry spoke about the wealth of programs they offer to all mothers, spanning prenatal to postpartum services and even Baby Boxes, which provide a safe sleep space for infants.
Of the new Community Doula program, which provides women with a non-medical professional to provide support before, during and after birth, Berry said, “Indian River Medical Center estimates that about 100 moms come in to labor and delivery each year alone. Which means that they are laboring, going through this tremendously scary time, by themselves.”
Since receiving the $35,000 gift in April, they have assisted with 20 births and have already seen a dramatically decreased rate in early pre-term labor, the No. 1 cause of infant mortality in black women.
“Healthy Start serves all mommies, regardless of what their needs are,” said Berry. “We are here for them no matter what.”
In closing, she introduced two adorable babies, their mothers and the doula who assisted them, saying, “These are some beautiful babies who you all helped bloom.”
Photos by: Denise Ritchie
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