I recently had the chance to speak with some inspiring community members who are involved with United Way of Utah County’s Welcome Baby program. During our conversations, I was reminded again of the impact that one person can have on the lives of others.
The Welcome Baby program, which provides home visits and resources to new parents, is only made possible thanks to the dedicated efforts of dozens of volunteers. These volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds; some have been parents for many years, and some are young parents themselves. But they all have one thing in common: a passion for supporting children in our community.
One volunteer who exemplifies the dedication of Welcome Baby volunteers is Lori Otterstrom. As a mother of nine, Otterstrom has a wealth of parenting experience that she shares generously with the families she visits. She has been volunteering for the past several years, and when asked why she gives so much of her time, she said, “It’s an opportunity to support something I really value — families, mothers, homes. They are the fabric of our community, and I have experience I can share. I like volunteering, so I make time for it.”
Thanks to Otterstrom’s service, dozens of new parents have received support and resources that have increased their confidence and capacity.
One of these parents, Nicole Eads, has been meeting with Otterstrom for the past six months. “(Otterstrom) is an incredible woman. She has been a mentor to me ... (and her) reassurance that I’m doing a good job has also been comforting because I’m so new to (parenting).”
Working with new parents is what Otterstrom loves about volunteering with Welcome Baby.
“It’s scary to be a new mom. It’s intimidating,” Otterstrom said. “Many of the moms we work with don’t have parents close by because they came here for school. Others are low-income or have other risk factors, and don’t have access to other resources. As a volunteer, I help show these moms that our community values family. We value parenting and what new parents do, and there are resources available to help.”
Since volunteers are trained to answer common questions and refer families to additional resources that can help when needed, they provide an invaluable service to parents who may feel overwhelmed or isolated.
As Eads explained, “As a new parent, the learning curve is huge. The Welcome Baby program has given me resources that I didn’t know were available. ... It’s comforting to know that I have resources if and when I need them.”
The emotional support that Welcome Baby volunteers provide is just as important as the training and information volunteers bring. The relationships that are built between volunteers and the families they visit don’t just strengthen those who are directly involved. They build up our entire community.
While not everyone has the wealth of parenting experience Otterstrom does, anyone can make a difference as a volunteer.
“There’s not one best type of volunteer,” Otterstrom emphasized. “Some volunteers connect with parents because they have a lot of experience, and others connect because they are the same age as the moms they visit. Anyone can be great — it’s all about making connections!”
“Your influence (as a volunteer) will make a difference. New moms and dads need a support system, and you will be part of ‘the village’ that helps to raise these children. Your skills and experience are needed, and other parents are eager to learn from you,” Eads said.
Volunteers with the Welcome Baby program, like so many other volunteers in our community, share their expertise and time and resources to make sure that the children in our lives are healthy and happy. And by doing so, these volunteers are not just strengthening our community today, but for generations to come.