By Johnny Jackson
Student leaders, Lyndsey Jackson and William Standard, said they never knew such a need existed in the suburbs. They learned, however, the need for which they helped meet is closer to them than they imagined.
An act of service by the two eighth-graders, and others in the 11-member Locust Grove Middle School Student Ambassadors Club, has resulted in the collection of 41 new baby blankets. Those blankets were donated Tuesday to Henry Medical Center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
"It was very sweet of them, and it's very much appreciated," said Kim Pace, the hospital's NICU manager and a registered nurse.
Pace said the donations will afford the unit a way to help provide for struggling parents, who are coping with their infants' hospitalization.
"My plans for those blankets are to let needy mothers take those [blankets] home," she said. "It's something that we would not have been able to offer otherwise."
Pace acknowledged that the hospital does not budget to supply additional receiving blankets for parents to take home following the birthing process.
"It made us feel outstanding," said William Standard, 14. Standard said Locust Grove student ambassadors began, in February, soliciting their 971 classmates for blankets.
The teenager said "it took some convincing," for some students. He said a few were hesitant to respond, not knowing the scope of the need. Standard said he explained to students that the new baby blankets were to be donated to families in need.
"Devastating," declared Standard, upon learning about the need of some families. "I realized there was poverty, but not that deep."
Fellow student ambassador, Lyndsey Jackson, echoed the sentiments. "I used to think that babies were born happy, but that's not always the case," said Jackson, 14.
Jackson professed to gaining a greater sense of service, because of the project. "It made me feel like I was helping the community by helping the children, and helping the next generation of children after us," she said.
The blankets, though well received, will only dent the need for them, according to Pace.
Pace said the hospital averages about 200 live births monthly, with about 18 newborns admitted to NICU. She said most in the unit are premature births, or are challenged by genetic anomalies and other medical issues.
Locust Grove's school counselors, Jane Orendorff and Kriesthe Young, guided the young people in their first community service effort. "We were trying to drum up the idea, and see where it would go," said Orendorff. "I felt like it was a great start. And any time we're encouraging students to give back to the community is a great time. They know they are making a difference in the quality of someone else's life."
NICU Manger Pace said the hospital also regularly receives support from Threads of Love, a Stockbridge-based, non-profit group.