Day of Action benefits newborns

Each year, 800 to 900 babies are born at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi. Thanks to the United Way’s latest Day of Action, each of them may have a little better start.

Last Friday, dozens of volunteers crowded the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce conference room to assemble gift packages for the mothers of local newborns. Included were a guide to area early childhood resources and a DVD on newborn care along with books, toys and other items designed to stimulate the physical and mental development of infants.

“The United Way coordinates this Day of Action worldwide as a network of thousands of United Way (chapters),” said Alice Rick, executive director of United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County. “We’ll find one project to bring volunteers in and accomplish something meaningful that one day. The Excel by Five Coalition was this year’s project.”

Annie Manning was one of the volunteers.

“Anything you can do to help the community, I think that’s what you should do. I started volunteering with the Foster Grandparents, and when you start one volunteer thing, then you kind of open your heart,” said the prospective grandmother. “When they said it was help for newborns, I knew you need all the information you can get to make your kids and grandkids live healthier than I did.”

United Way Assistant Director Katherine Drinkwater said helpers represented RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteers Program), employees of workplaces that host United Way donation campaigns, University of Mississippi students and United Way board members.

“We’ve had quite a few students that were actually in town, which surprised me,” Drinkwater said as she brought in yet another box of books to be divvied up. “They’re almost moving too fast for us.”

RSVP member Patsy Pipkin said, “I just wanted to help the community. It was just a good time to volunteer.”

She was cutting apart paper patterns for mobiles that new moms can easily assemble to hang over their babies’ cribs.

“It’s supposed to help with eye-hand coordination,” she explained.
As volunteers arrived, took a break or got ready to leave, Rick asked them for input on community needs, noting that the answers – “more free gyms,” “great schools,” “recreation for senior citizens” and “good jobs,” among others – will help direct United Way’s efforts in coming years.
“We’re hoping to ask this question at gatherings all over the community,” she said. “Places like here, at other community events, at parks, to our board members, to workplaces where we do United Way campaigns – wherever we can.”

The question was an intriguingly worded one, written in chalk on a blackboard framed in weathered wood.
It asked simply, “What do you aspire for LOU?”

Twitter: @oxfordcitizenec

About Errol Castens

I'm a news reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal and the Oxford Citizen. Focusing on Oxford and Lafayette County, I've been a part of the L-O-U community since 1991.