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Volunteers assemble Warm Welcome Bags for Denver Health's Newborns in Need program

Newborns in Need Celebrates 20 Years of Helping Families

April 24, 2023

Beloved Denver Health Foundation program endures thanks to community

134,000 diapers. 201,000 hats. 60,000 babies. Since 2003, Denver Health Foundation’s Newborns in Need has provided “Warm Welcome bags” of essential items to the parents of babies born at Denver Health. The unparalleled program celebrates its 20th anniversary this April and there are tens of thousands of Denver families who have felt its impact in their lives.

Newborns in Need is one of the many Denver Health initiatives that benefit children and parents, and one that especially thrives on the relationship between Denver Health Foundation and the people of Denver. Program Coordinator Sharon Mushkin and a range of community volunteers—averaging 50 per week—assemble the welcome bags in a dedicated space in one of the pavilions on Denver Health’s downtown campus. Sessions to assemble the bags last about two hours and are held several times each week.

Denver residents from every walk of life volunteer for Newborns in Need. Students from public and private schools. Local news personalities. Employees from numerous companies, large and small, based in our city. Members of religious, fraternal, and sororal organizations. Local charity groups and scout troops. Denver Health employees themselves.

“I recently had a volunteer from Canvas Credit Union tell me her mother was born at Denver Health, she was born at Denver Health, and her daughter was also born at Denver Health,” said Sharon. “Three generations!”

In addition to the volunteers who assemble welcome bags, there is a devoted collection of local knitting, sewing, crocheting, and quilting groups that donate blankets and other hand-made items. Groups like Project Linus, Warm Hearts–Warm Baby, Koelbel Library Knitters, and many others have been longstanding supporters of Newborns in Need.

The contents of the welcome bags have evolved over the years. Currently, parents are gifted with a large bag containing diapers and wipes, baby shampoo and body wash, baby lotion, warming and receiving blankets, a bib and a burp cloth, a sleepsack, a book and a stuffed animal, an outfit, a hat, and two pairs of socks.

Also included in each welcome bag are a special, high-value item, such as a pair of shoes or a hand-made sweater, and informational brochures in English and Spanish from Denver Public Library, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, College Invest, Denver Water, and Cribs for Kids on Safe Sleep.

For parents of newborns who have greater needs, Denver Health social workers assist them in attaining car seats, strollers, cribs, pack ’n’ plays, and similar items.

The Newborns in Need program started with great support that has only grown through the decades. Jean Galloway, founder of Galloway Group and Prosono, where she still holds a position, first conceptualized the idea of local women throwing baby showers and delivering care packages to new parents at Denver Health. Her husband, Dr. Ben Galloway, was a physician at Denver Health and Jean volunteered at the hospital and was a consultant to Denver Health Foundation.

Jean, along with former Denver Health Foundation Executive Director Paula Herzmark, Foundation board members, former Denver Health CEO Dr. Patty Gabow, and others at Denver Health, reached out to their personal and professional contacts to drum up support.

In addition to Dr. Gabow, Debra (Baldwin) Pain, former Denver Health Foundation Annual Giving Manager Robin Engleberg, and former Colorado First Lady Frances Owens were instrumental in getting the community involved. First Lady Owens quickly helped initiate male-inclusive counterpart events that underwrote the cost of car seats for the program. Denver community figures such as Pam Crowe, Peggy Shanahan, and Sharon Magness Blake—who offered her home as the setting for the first Newborns in Need baby shower—were also early supporters.

“I honestly cannot think of a person that I outreached to about this idea who wasn’t excited about it,” Jean said. “And it just took off!”

Dr. Sharon Langendoerfer, then head of Denver Health’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), also played a crucial role in the birth of Newborns in Need. The first recipients of the Warm Welcome bags were incarcerated women and women experiencing homelessness who Dr. Langendoerfer was caring for in the NICU who had no means of providing material necessities for their newborns. Gift baskets consisting of basic items like disposable diapers, a onesie, and some receiving blankets were initially provided to those patients most in need. The program then expanded into essentials given to a few more mothers, and then eventually evolved to become the current welcome bag that is given to every parent who delivers a baby at Denver Health.

The support and success of Newborns in Need over the past two decades is truly incredible. And Denver Health’s care for children and parents touches every point at the beginning of life’s journey. From the Denver Health Doula Program (DHDP) providing devoted, equitable care and support during labor and birth, to the mental and behavioral health services offered through integrated perinatal mental health and infant mental health services, to Reach Out and Read, a program encouraging families to read aloud together, the immediate and long-term well-being of Denver’s families is a priority for Denver Health and Denver Health Foundation.

Recalling a quote from a letter she received from one of those first grateful patients, Dr. Langendoerfer sums up the dignity and compassion that Newborns in Need—and, more holistically, Denver Health—brings to the people of Denver: “You all treated me like a person and like a new mom and it was wonderful.”

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