The Anderson County Health Department hosted the free event at the Second Baptist Church from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m on Friday, June 23.
The goal was to help new or expectant mothers ensure their newborns are well taken care of and to connect them to the myriad of resources available to them throughout the community.
“It’s a community event the department of health put on to help educate people on healthy people and healthy babies,” stated Anderson County Health Dept. Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Jennifer Bingham.
The baby shower was funded entirely by local businesses, agencies and individuals in the community, she said.
It is also the first event of its kind to be held in Anderson County.
Hundreds of people from the community and surrounding counties attended the festive, family-friendly event and received information from several local vendors and community health organizations on things like prenatal care, proper nutrition, healthcare for mom and baby, tobacco cessation, family planning, and child safety and education.
Just like traditional baby showers, the shower included plenty of baby supplies, and also a chance to win door prizes.
Representatives from WIC, Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge, Habitat for Humanity, Allies for Substance Abuse and Prevention, and retail stores like Babies R’ Us were present to hand out information packets on available resources and had booths set up on display for people to visit.
Refreshments and healthy snacks were provided by the county health department. Grand prize giveaways were also sponsored by the health department.
“We are really excited about doing this for the community. It’s really a good chance to let people know about the services offered by the health department. We have information at vendor booths on things like family planning, information on tobacco prevention, and we want them to know they can still continue on WIC [Women, Infant, and Children],” said Art Miller, the health director of the Anderson County Health Department, one of the event’s key organizers.
Part of the larger goal for putting the event together was to educate the public on the benefits of breastfeeding, and to promote it as a healthy choice, said Barbara Peplies, Anderson County Health Department WIC nutritionist.
The event was part of a larger statewide movement initiated by Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner to promote the benefits of breastfeeding and encourage more women to consider breastfeeding their infants.
“Policymakers in Nashville have approved letting us have events like this to attract women and families to be more accepting and understanding of the benefits of breastfeeding,” said Peplies. “Breastfeeding is an important way to help babies get off to a healthy start.”
Peplies transferred to Anderson County Health Department after working some time at the Claiborne County Health Department where she saw, first hand, how the health department in Claiborne County hosted baby showers like this one and how they benefited the community.
She said she told Miller about the community baby showers Claiborne County hosted, and that when Miller learned of these events in other counties he was very excited about hosting a similar event in Anderson County.
And the idea sort of grew from there to a full fledged, organized event with the entire Anderson County Health Department working together as a team to make this event possible, Peplies said.
“Everybody in the health department really came together to make this work,” Peplies said. “Everyone had a hand in coordinating it. It’s just another way we can help bring more people to the health department. We want them to come and it’s also good for the vendors too because they get recognition.”
Anderson County resident and expectant mom Amanda Spilling attended the event.
Spilling said she heard about the event on Facebook and decided to come see what it was all about. When she arrived at the church, she was amazed by what she saw. There were vendor booths everywhere with all kinds of information and products easily accessible to expectant mothers.
“It’s a lot to take in,” said Spilling, who was standing in a long line of people who had come to this event to visit the vendor booths.
Spilling said she was excited with the event and all the information that was presented, and thought it was beneficial.
The Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, in conjunction with the Clinton Fire Department, conducted presentations on car seat safety in the church’s parking lot outside.
The Imagination Library was also on site to sign up families for their free book program.
Scoles Family Chiropractic, a Knoxville-based chiropractic agency, had a booth set up at a table in the last row with information detailing how a chiropractor can help treat women with some of the more common pregnancy complaints (symptoms like lower back pain).
“Our office specializes in treating kids and expectant mothers, but we see and treat everybody, people of all ages,” stated Kelli Friedmann, a chiropractic assistant at Scoles Family Chiropractic.
Event organizers said they were pleased to see the big turnout and the amount of support from the community.
“The support from the community was more than we expected,” Bingham said, smiling.
“I’ve never seen it before. It wasn’t as big an event in Claiborne as it is here. It’s a big thing here and it’s a great event for the health community, too,” observed Peplies.
“We really appreciate Second Baptist Church for allowing us to provide this event here,” added Miller.