We celebrated National Volunteer Week earlier this month, honoring the many volunteers who truly make a world of a difference in the health and lives of preterm and ill infants. One group of volunteers we recognized is our amazing Junior League of Austin (JLA) team. Over the past 15 years, the Milk Bank has been fortunate to be a Community Project of JLA and has benefited tremendously from the dedicated women who select us as their nonprofit of choice to fulfill their volunteer hours. Next month we will say goodbye to our incredible 2014-2015 team, and we’ve just learned that we will welcome a new team for 2015-2016 – thank you Junior Leaguers! In addition to providing the woman power necessary to help us meet our mission, this amazing organization has supported our Charitable Care Program (CCP) since 1999. The CCP is a philanthropically supported program that allows the Milk Bank to provide donor milk to every baby with a medical need – regardless of insurance coverage or families’ financial resources. The Junior League of Austin has literally helped us to same thousands of lives over the years!
In honor of National Volunteer Week and this year’s JLA participants, we want to spotlight the experiences of a couple of our volunteers as they reflect on their time spent with the Milk Bank.
Meet Bethany! I joined the Junior League of Austin in the summer of 2013, right around the same time my daughter, Zoryana ("Zory") was born. I was eager to stay involved in the community, and have the opportunity to connect with other working moms also looking to stay active with their community involvement. As a new mom, I had hoped to become a milk donor for the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin - I had periodically heard about the organization and the incredible ways in which they are able to help fragile babies with the milk donated by breastfeeding moms. Unfortunately, I barely produced enough breast milk for my little one, let alone enough to donate to the Milk Bank. Fast forward a year when it was time to choose my community placement with the League. I sorted through a massive list of organizations supported by the Junior League, and to my surprise, found the Mothers’ Milk Bank listed with the opportunity to help process milk in the lab. I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to give back to the Milk Bank in a different way than I had originally hoped.
This past year, I've been able to pick up milk from drop off locations around town and bring it to the Milk Bank; I've logged frozen mother's breast milk that's been shipped to the Milk Bank from around the country to prepare it for milk processing; I've worked on the front lines with the pour team, mixing and pouring milk for pasteurization. While I wasn't able to donate my breast milk, I was able to contribute my time to help improve the health and lives of preterm and ill infants. I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity this past year and to work closely with the incredible staff who bring their passion for helping fragile babies to work every day.
Meet Doran! At the Mother's Milk Bank of Austin, every day feels like volunteer appreciation day. From my first week, the staff made me feel so welcome. As a volunteer, I was able to immediately start helping with events that promote the milk bank, breastfeeding and the importance of donating breast milk. Hearing stories of mothers whose premature babies were the recipients of donated breast milk catapulted my interest in how the breast milk is processed. I loved taking an active part in the thawing and pouring of the breast milk into flasks to later be pasteurized. I also took on a more behind the scenes role by participating in statistical analysis of the nutritional content of the milk. I was amazed to learn that the executive director of the Milk Bank looks at every mother’s milk donation’s nutritional content to make sure that each NICU baby receives just the right amount of fat and calories in their milk.
Just like every ounce of milk donated counts to make a difference in the lives of babies born too soon, every minute of volunteering makes a difference at the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin. I hope the readers decide to one day donate their extra milk, donate financially or donate their time to this wonderful organization.