Women shower gifts for cause

The scene at Monica Verploeg's home Wednesday was like that from a giant baby shower, but no visibly pregnant women could be seen.

Instead, a pool table was piled high with new car seats, tiny clothes, bottles, diapers, baby wipes and other baby essentials that will be given to low-income, first-time mothers in Northwest Colorado.

The gifts were brought by guests who attended Verploeg's annual luncheon, which coincided with a visit from David Olds, founder of the Nurse-Family Partnership.

Based in Denver, NFP works to improve the health of low-income parents and children throughout the nation.

The Visiting Nurse Assoc-iation will distribute items collected at Verploeg's party through its regional NFP program.

Olds, who later spoke at the VNA's annual meeting, was impressed by the outpouring of gifts.

"It's such an incredible statement of compassion and of what community is all about," he said.

Verploeg said her luncheons started "innocently" five years ago as a way to say thank you for friends' support during her lengthy recovery from surgery.

After that first lunch, Ver-ploeg found herself with 50 to 60 hostess gifts. The presents were nice, but she thought her friends' kindness might be channeled to a more worthy cause.

At following luncheons, guests came loaded with bags and boxes of baby goods.

"When they ask how much to bring, I say, 'Bring 'til it hurts,'" Verploeg said.

Rosemarie Smith and Cathy Glynn said they enjoyed buying baby stuff again, though some items -- such as diapers and wipes -- reminded them of motherhood duties they don't miss.

The local NFP program is an important reminder of needs that still exist in communities such as Steamboat, Smith said.

"I think it's a great project that not a lot of people are aware of," Glynn said.

Registered nurses in the NFP program visit first-time mothers in their homes while they are pregnant and during the first two years of their children's lives.

NFP, funded by tobacco settlement funds, works with about 2,200 mothers in Colorado each year.

In Northwest Colorado, the VNA's program helps women ages 14 to 40, most of whom are single mothers, said Ann Irvin, who supervises the VNA's NFP program.

The program aims to improve pregnancy outcomes by helping women improve their diets, find good prenatal care and reduce smoking, alcohol and substance abuse.

NFP also educates parents about responsible parenting practices and becoming economically self-sufficient through continuing education, job training and family planning.

Olds, a pediatrics professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, re--searched NFP mothers and found that they are more likely to leave welfare and are less likely to abuse or neglect their children. They also tend to have less unintended pregnancies and drug or alcohol problems.

The VNA is looking for low-income, first-time mothers for the Routt County program. Candidates should be early in their pregnancies.

For information, call Wendy Bower at 879-1632.

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