The baby shower was hosted in Central Lake, Michigan by the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, which led the development of CLEO – Central Lake Early Experiences and Opportunities and is a significant supporter, with its Cleo M. Purdy Endowment.
What excited you about a community-wide baby shower for all the newborn and expectant mothers/families in Central Lake?
By hosting a community baby shower, we wanted to introduce families as early as possible to CLEO and give them an opportunity to understand that there is a tangible network of high quality experiences and opportunities to support families right from the start. We wanted to do this in an informal, fun, celebratory way!
It also provides us with an opportunity to sign up each child to receive a free book delivered to their home each month through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and to share information from the Read Aloud 15 MINUTES National Campaign on why reading aloud for 15 minutes, starting at birth and continuing through 3rd grade, is essential to assure their child’s early brain development and lifelong learning success.
How many expectant or newborn families were you able to reach?
We were able to reach approximately 18 expectant or new parents (children born within the past year); 8 were able to attend. Those not able to attend had a follow up home visit and received a CLEO Welcome Bag.
You have been involved in early childhood for many years, what made the baby shower a unique experience for you?
Perhaps the most unique aspect of this event was that the primary goal was simply to get to know these families and provide them with a connection to CLEO and to one another in a welcoming way – traditional educational goals were not a part of this experience.
What was the reaction of the new and expectant parents who attended?
The attendees felt very much that they were at a baby shower they might have with their family – there were games, good food, and conversation in the air. Parents were very thankful for the opportunity to come together and for the special CLEO gift bag filled with items for their baby. We believe parents left with the impression that CLEO cares about them and is here for them and their family.
Did other members of the community get involved? How?
There were many individuals that got involved to make the baby shower a success, contributing however they could. One mom loves to bake and wanted to make the cake. Another mom really enjoys crocheting and decided to crochet a hat to put in every CLEO gift bag. We had one grandmother that was very excited about the event and wanted to help decorate. She brought over various items from her own home, including fresh cut flowers from her yard. The ways they contributed were very meaningful as it truly was their time and giving a piece of themselves.
What was the biggest surprise in planning and putting on the event?
By far the biggest surprise was the degree to which families want to support one another in a very concrete way. We had so many individuals that supported the event by decorating, baking, cooking, planning games, etc.
What would you want any organization planning such an event to know?
This is an event that is relatively inexpensive to host and that a broad range of community stakeholders can get behind and support with time, talent, and expertise. Our volunteers spent an afternoon preparing the food – our expense was just the groceries. A local church donated the space for our event. Many that helped us donated what they could – the crocheted hats, the cake, the flowers, for example. A community baby shower is such a feel-good event and a wonderful way to celebrate the joy of a new baby in the community. It’s a relatively easy way to make a big impact.
Alison Metiva, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation
Marsha Miller, Early Childhood Consultant and CLEO Implementation Manager for the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation