Wednesday, 10 October 2012 21:35

Providing Hands-On Love and Support for NICU Families

Written by  Rachel Fisher
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The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is an uncertain and scary place for any new parent. Brie and Jason Smith know this all too well, along with thousands of other families in the River Region. Brie and Jason’s son, Colby, was born at only 23 weeks old on July 28th, 2012. For the past two months, the Smith family says they have experienced fear and uncertainty, but also love.  That love has come not only in the form of the support of family and friends, but through a ministry that reaches out to families like the Smiths, who are walking through having a baby in the NICU.

 

That ministry is the Footprints Ministry, a 501(C) 3 non-profit organization that began in August of 2007 at Heritage Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. after director Kim Wilson and her family had their own experience with the NICU. Kim’s son was born premature and with a collapsed lung.  During their stay in the NICU, Kim says she felt the desire to let God use her experience to help other families in the same unexpected situation.  A year later, Footprints began.  “Our prayer is that we will share the love of Christ with NICU families and provide support and encouragement to them during the most exciting and difficult time in their life,” explains Kim.  “We just want to be there for them and make this time, whether it’s ten days or three months, a time where they know they are cared for and being prayed for.” 

It seems that Wilson and others who volunteer with Footprints are doing just that. 

“It’s so easy to be overwhelmed with all the numbers and statistics the doctors are telling you,” says Brie.  “But after we met Kim and read about Footprints we immediately felt the love and support from people who have been where we are. Kim has sent us cards and Scripture that have come at just the right moments. God has definitely used this ministry to encourage us!”

Footprints first began serving Baptist South hospital in Montgomery. In December of 2007, they expanded their ministry to Baptist East hospital in Montgomery as well. With the help of other volunteers who live in other cities, more Footprints chapters have started and are now serving St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville and Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster, Alabama. 

The primary way the Footprints Ministry ministers to families is by distributing gift bags filled with basic necessities to parents who have a baby admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This is how families, like the Smiths, are initially introduced to the ministry.

“Every item is important because most families are not prepared when their premature baby comes into the world,” says Wilson. The gift bags are put together and wrapped by a group of volunteers who then take them to the different hospitals.  Many of the volunteers are actually parents who were ministered to by Footprints when their child was in the NICU. Brie and Jason say they are planning to be a part of putting the bags together and are looking forward to meeting other families who have walked this same road.  

Each bag contains a Bible, disposable camera, gift cards to local restaurants and stores, burp cloth, a scent blanket for the mother to sleep with and return to the baby, prayer request card, tissues, Montgomery Parents and Journey magazines, pens and notepads and travel necessities. 

Brie Smith says the disposable camera has been her favorite item in the gift bag. “There have been days when Colby has done something, like open his eyes, and since we weren’t there to see him, the NICU nurses were able to take photos and give them to us.” 

Kim explains that many of the families who receive a bag are also receiving their first Bible. “I’ve had women tell me that the Bible in the gift bag was the first Bible they have ever had,” says Kim. 

Brandi Cox, a case worker at Baptist East, is responsible for handing out the bags to the NICU families at the hospital. “The parents are just so thankful,” says Brandi. “We make sure every family that comes through the doors of the NICU has a bag from Footprints. Kim and her volunteers truly go above and beyond to care for these families.” 

According to Kim, Baptist East and Baptist South hospitals serve 800 babies per year from 20 surrounding counties. St. Vincent’s hospital serves around 350 babies per year. “We have distributed over 10,000 bags since August of 2007,” says Kim.  By the end of 2012, Kim says they will have distributed over 2,700 Footprints bags this year.  In addition to the Footprints gift bags, they also make seasonal visits during Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas. Aubie, the Easter Bunny and Santa have even made an appearance in the NICU

“This ministry has touched the lives of so many families,” says Kim.  “We’ve had opportunities to meet with these families and pray with them. We’ve also made many friends through this ministry.” Brie and Jason agree. “We have loved learning the stories of other families who have been where we are. It’s that hope that keeps us encouraged and looking forward to the day where we can encourage another family,” says Brie. 

A group of committed volunteers and donations are what allow Footprints Ministry to be a continued presence in the NICU. To find out more about how you or your group can be involved in helping this ministry share the love of Christ with families in the NICU visit www.nicufootprints.org or call (334) 391-1594.  To follow Colby Smith’s story visit www.ourcolby.blogspot.com.

 

Rachel Fisher loves learning what God is doing in the world and writing about it. Rachel and her husband, Chase, are members of Strong Tower at Washington Park, a church plant of Common Ground Ministries.

 

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 21:39
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