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Volunteers: Our Everyday Heroes

In this season of holidays and thankfulness, we at the Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank find ourselves thankful for many people, particularly our volunteers. With only two paid staff members and countless duties to perform, the daily operations of the OMMB would not be possible without the passionate hearts of our volunteers. While we have a small core group of volunteers who regularly give their time, we also depend on the help of one-time volunteers who come give us a hand as part of their school programs. Women and men who spend their time volunteering here at OMMB perform duties like pasteurizing milk, picking up milk from milk depots, delivering milk, organizing milk, and performing other administrative duties such as calling donor moms, faxing forms, and compiling donor charts.

To best capture the volunteering experience, we thought it would be most appropriate to catch up with our first-ever volunteer, Janette.
Janette is a retired NICU nurse of 20 years, and she also spent time working as a lactation consultant. When she retired, she knew that she wanted to spend her extra time serving the babies and parents that the Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank serves. Janette says that she has enjoyed every minute of her service to the OMMB, and we have been happy to have her here for a year and a half.

Janette pouring milk during pasteurization

Janette pouring milk during pasteurization

Since the opening of the OMMB in 2013, Janette has volunteered at least every two weeks.  In the beginning, she says that helped with everything, including contacting donor moms and helping with paperwork. Now that we have so many ounces of milk coming into our freezers, the OMMB uses Janette’s skills to help with the process of milk pasteurization. Janette said that the process of pasteurization has been tweaked over time, so that now the process of thawing happens the night before pasteurization. Previously, the thawing used to happen the same morning as the pasteurizing. Janette admitted that it used to “sometimes make for a long day,” but that it was always worth it. “It [donor milk] saves lives, and I’ve seen it save lives. I was a NICU nurse for 20 years. We have come a long way in 20 years.”

One aspect of volunteering that Janette said she particularly enjoys is connecting with other volunteers at the milk bank. “Meeting people with the same interest and commitment to providing breast milk to babies has been great.” Other volunteers include donor mothers with extra time, stay-at-home moms, medical students and doctors from other parts of the world, nursing and dietetic students, nurses, retirees, and lactation consultants. “It’s just such a pleasant place to work. It’s so nice there. Sometimes people get together and just don’t click, but I have never experienced that here. Everybody just works together real well.”

Janette, on right, with Lesley (middle) and volunteer Amanda (left)

Janette, on right, with Lesley (middle) and volunteer Amanda (left)

When asked about her favorite experience as a volunteer, Janette was quick to respond. “One of the most rewarding parts is to see the moms come and bring their milk. Part of my job was teaching these moms when I was a lactation consultant.” She heaped praises upon donor moms, who spend their time and give their extra ounces to premature and sick, hospitalized babies in need. “I know what goes behind that donation and the dedication behind that donation.” Janette said her experience comes not only from the medical side, but also from a personal one. When her grandson was in the NICU for a week, she said it was immensely helpful for her family to know that the milk from donor mothers at OMMB was there if it was needed. She described it as “peace of mind” during a stressful time.

We here at the OMMB would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Janette, and to all of our volunteers. We are truly indebted to everyone willing to give of their time and their talents. Are you interested in volunteering for OMMB? We’re always in need of help! For questions or to sign up, contact Lesley at (405) 297-LOVE (5683), or shoot us an email at info@okmilkbank.org.

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