The EBC formula program – making sure babies get the nutrition they need

CourtneyRayburn_EmersonHigh(formula)On a recent visit to EBC, Courtney Rayburn was picking up an emergency order of formula for a couple of teen mothers. She beamed as she shared the stories of a 16-year-old who had been able to catch up in her studies after temporarily dropping out of school when her baby was born, and of a 17-year-old who had manage to remain in school throughout her pregnancy and first year of her child’s life.

Courtney is an infant care specialist at the daycare center at Emerson High School in the Lake Washington School District. She cares for babies and children on campus (free of charge) so their young mothers are able to attend school.

To see Courtney standing there, the few cans of formula in her arms, it might have been difficult to appreciate the significance of a partnership between her organization, a small childcare provider and EBC, a brimming distribution hub, but as she told her rich stories of lives changed, the sense of purpose in the room was palpable.

At EBC, local providers, like Courtney, are able to order more than 165 items for the families they serve, but, like the moms at Emerson, formula is one of the items most often requested. Formula is very expensive. On average, it costs $16 to $19 for a three day supply. Because of the high cost, struggling families are often tempted to water down the formula they are giving to baby. Diluting the nutrition endangers healthy development, which is why the formula program is so important.

Each week about 30 individual orders for formula are filled. That’s on top of the bimonthly orders filled for 11 area food banks. Each food bank receives 12 cans of formula every two weeks (along with baby food and diapers). Between the food banks and individuals EBC gives out nearly 320 cans of formula each month.

Mary Steele is the incredible volunteer responsible for formula. She keeps an inventory of the formula on-hand, purchases new formula as necessary and prepares the orders for distribution each week.

Mary_smaller

Mary has been in charge of formula at EBC since the very beginning. She has watched the need for formula grow exponentially in that time, and she’s helped EBC keep up with the demand, ensuring every family that orders formula gets the correct formula – tailored to the nutritional needs of their child.

On the very day Courtney was in to pick up her emergency order, Mary was at the Hub dropping off 240 cans of formula (almost a month’s supply) she had just purchased. To have both the dedicated volunteer who makes sure no formula order goes unfilled, and the selfless service provider who uses formula to help change lives, at the Hub together, made for a very powerful moment.

The only piece missing that day was representation from the donors who give formula or give money to buy it. Individuals and groups often donate a few cans or host drives, where they collect a few dozen cans, but keeping up with demand, requires purchasing formula as well. A portion of the funds used for formula come from gifts where the donor has not specified a use for their contribution – such as those made at the Helping Kids Thrive Annual Luncheon. Another portion comes from donors who request their contributions be specifically used for formula. The Ellison Foundation and Young Family are two of those donors. In early 2014 they gave generously toward the purchase of formula. With a formula cost of nearly $4,400 per month, these funds mean the world to EBC volunteers and staff, and to providers like Courtney, and the young moms they help.

Thank you Courtney and Mary. Thank you to all of the donors who have given funds to help purchase high-need items like formula. Thank you to the Ellison Foundation and Gary and Lark Young for making sure every child who needs formula get it, and most of all, thank you to the mothers at Emerson High for working to make a better life for your children. You remind us all of why there is an Eastside Baby Corner.

Meet Our Founder – Karen Ridlon

Twenty-five years ago, Karen Ridlon founded Eastside Baby Corner (EBC).   A certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (University of California, San Francisco, 1972), Karen worked as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in California and Washington, working in well child care, newborn care and newborn ICU support for a number of medical groups and doctors. In 1990, Karen founded Eastside Baby Corner to fill an unmet need of parents of newborns who lacked basic supplies for their children.

She is Executive Director Emeritus and a lifetime member of the EBC Board of Directors. Karen has been recognized for her efforts with many volunteer awards, including receiving the Leadership Eastside LENi Community Choice Leadership Award in 2013, Distinguished Member Award for the Washington State Chapter of NAPNAP (National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners) in 2013, Issaquah Schools Foundation Golden Apple Award (2009) and chosen as a UCSF Distinguished Alumni. Karen was a key player in the development of the Issaquah Community Center and has been a tireless contributor to many volunteer efforts over the years, including scouting, the public schools, and her church. Karen is the mother of three children and a proud resident of Issaquah, where she lives with her husband. 

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