January 17, 2006

Contact: Jenny Savage (505) 272-3651

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The animated chatter and banter escaping from the ladies of the Ester Nowick Baby Gift Program is matched only by the click of their knitting needles. For over a decade, the group has been meeting twice a week to knit and crochet blankets, hats and sweaters for Albuquerque babies born into uninsured families. The program is part of an effort by the Maternity and Infant Care ward clinics of University Hospital to provide a gift incentive as encouragement for uninsured mothers and their babies to return to the hospital to take advantage of postpartum checkups and family counseling.

"The postpartum visit is important in many ways, it helps the patient get counseling, prescriptions on family planning methods and helps to mitigate any complications after the birth of their child," said Bette Jo Ciesielski, maternity and infant outreach education coordinator.

The program also ensures that new mothers will establish a medical home for themselves and for their baby. Members of the Ester Nowick Baby Gift Program admit that most mothers who take advantage of their program, "really need the gift." Ciesielski believes the benefits of receiving a baby gift from the group extends far beyond physical needs. "For the new moms, these gifts mean that someone cares."

Despite their key role in keeping babies across New Mexico healthy, the women of the Ester Nowick Baby Gift Program aren't quick to toot their own horn. For these women, the program is simply a way to channel their love of knitting into something concrete. "All of our friends and family already have all the knitted things they could ever want, so we needed to find a new outlet," said Danielle Hammons, longtime member of the project. "It keeps me out of the bar," joked Shirley Kavanaugh, another veteran member.

The Ester Nowick Baby Gift Program meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 9am-11am at the Meadowlark Senior Center .