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Thermal Totes Donated to NICU Provide Safe Transport for Mothers’ Breast Milk

Former Fleetwood resident Alycia Cardona has a heart for service and reaching out to others.

It’s evident in her work as a counselor in the mental health/addictions field, and it extends into her position as an independent director with Thirty-One Gifts, a direct selling company that offers purses, accessories, totes and other items.

Thirty-One Gifts, which was founded in 2003 with a mission of giving women business opportunities that could support and strengthen them, also has a strong charitable program and encourages its consultants to make a difference within their communities.

It was that urging that prompted Cardona to reach out to her former neighbor, Bobbi Jo Martin, a NICU nurse at Penn State Health St. Joseph.
“I was looking for a way to help, and I reached out to Bobbi Jo,” Cardona explained. “I was motivated by the mission of Thirty-One Gifts and wanted to do something beneficial in my community.”


It did not take Martin long to identify a way that Cardona could help.

The staff of St. Joseph’s NICU is adamant about the benefits of breastfeeding, and encourages all mothers to breastfeed, or at least pump breast milk for their babies’ use. While staff is able to help moms secure breast pumps and other items, they were lacking in one regard.

“We didn’t have a safe way for our moms to transport their milk so they can bring it from home to their babies in the hospital,” Martin explained. “That was the piece we were missing.”

When Martin explained that need to Cardona, the Thirty-One Gifts director had a ready answer.

“Thirty-One Gifts has these thermal bags that I knew would be just perfect for this,” Cardona said. “I was so excited to think I could do something that might make a difference to women who were going through a difficult time.”

Cardona used social media and employed the old-fashioned method of posting flyers in area grocery stores and meeting places, asking people to donate money that would be used to buy a thermal tote in which breast milk could be safely transported.

The response was memorable.
“I was able to collect donations to purchase 35 thermals, and then I used the commissions I made on the sales to buy items to put inside of the bags,” Cardona said. “I am so proud of our community for getting behind this project and helping these moms.”
Several of the bags were donated by women whose babies are former patients of St. Joseph’s NICU.

Cardona began collecting the thermal bags in July, and delivered them to the NICU in September, which was designated as NICU Month. The response from mothers who have received the bags has been extremely positive.

“They are thrilled,” Martin said. “We’ve all been surprised at how excited the moms are to get the bags. They’ve certainly been using them, and that was the whole idea.”

Packed inside each bag are items including a reusable ice pack, dish soap, antibacterial wipes, nail file, pen, notebook and tissues.

Cardona recently moved to San Diego, CA, but maintains close ties with the Berks County community. She stays in touch with Martin, who keeps her up to date on the use of the thermal bags.

“I am over the moon excited that the bags have been so received by the hospital and the mothers,” Cardona said. “It’s very rewarding to be in a position to help others, especially those going through a difficult time. There’s no greater joy than knowing you had a positive impact on someone’s life.”

Kim Hunter, MSN, RN, OB Nurse Navigator Planning a pregnancy? Expecting this year? Want to check out our birthing center? Or just have general questions? Call Kim Hunter, MSN, RN, OB Nurse Navigator and let her be your personal guide.
610-378-2569   |   KHunter3@PennStateHealth.psu.edu   |   www.StJoesSpecialDeliveries.org


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