As the founding executive director, I have always believed there is a community-based solution to support sick and fragile babies. As a labour and delivery nurse at the Foothills hospital, I’ve seen the transformational impact of donor human milk in the NICU and I remain convinced that all babies should have ready access to the life-saving benefits of donor human milk. I am as passionate about milk banking today as I have been since we opened our doors in 2012. Seeing the impact of this milk, the spirit of giving that stems from our selfless donors and the gratitude from our recipient families is a testament to the community of NorthernStar.
While doing my doctoral research in nutrition, I read over and over again how important breast milk is for life-long health, and this became the area of study I was most passionate about. After finishing school, I knew there would be no better place to help ensure babies received the best nutrition possible than at the Milk Bank, and was thrilled to volunteer in the lab and then have the opportunity to work here.
I have a passion for working with families, especially moms and babies, which led me to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and registered dietitian. My education and interest in maternal and pediatric health lead me to the Milk Bank. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to make a difference in the community as part of the team at NorthernStar.
During my nursing program at the University of Calgary, I was one of the lucky students who got to spend a semester working in the NICU, postpartum and labor and delivery unit. It quickly became obvious to me that this area of nursing was where I wanted to begin my career. I knew about the Milk Bank as I used donor human milk often during my time in the NICU. I contacted the Milk Bank to start volunteering. Shortly after, I was very excited to be able to apply for a job and to become a part of such a truly wonderful organization and am happy to have found this unique niche.
The opening of the Milk Bank in 2012 coincided with the birth of my first daughter and I enjoyed following the growth and progress of NorthernStar over the next four years. After the birth of my second daughter, I jumped at the opportunity to join the team at NorthernStar and help an organization that has a major impact on the health of children in Canada. As a teacher I was excited to increase the awareness of milk donation, and as a mother I loved seeing the benefits of donor milk and empowering women in my community.
I had been blessed to be the mother of two healthy boys. As I returned to the workforce, I worked in the not-for-profit sector for several years. When I saw that the milk bank was looking for an Office Administrator/Bookkeeper in April 2014, I was very excited at the possibility. Not too long before, a news story about the milk bank introduced me to the concept and I thought it was wonderful that tiny, sick babies could be helped so much and so easily though the generosity of other moms. Now, after working here, watching these babies grow and thrive, and seeing how our donor moms help so much, I know first-hand what a very special place this is.
From the moment my daughter was born, 8 weeks premature, I became passionate about helping preemies and their families. I was so excited when not only did I discover that Calgary had just opened a milk bank, but they were also looking for volunteers. Three years later here I am working in the lab, still enjoying every moment. I know this milk directly benefits fragile infants, and also their parents. I am so grateful that I get to work with such passionate people in a place where I know I am making a difference.
Coming from a background with various education and experience in the healthcare field, I was very intrigued when I came across an opportunity at NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank. At that time, I did not know what a milk bank was. After some research about milk banking and the organization, I was amazed at what was being done for babies and their families in need. I am beyond grateful I was given the opportunity to work at NMMB as a lab technician, and so proud to be a part of such an amazing team! When someone asks what I do, I get excited knowing that telling people what I do and who I represent spreads awareness about milk banking and the benefits of pasteurized donor human milk.
In his fable, The Lion and the Mouse, Aesop wrote that, “no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Never have I seen this quote more realized than in an organization like NorthernStar. I have always wanted to work for a non-for-profit charitable organization and, from the moment I learned about milk banking, I knew I wanted to somehow be involved in the amazing work they were doing. I am delighted and honoured that I get to spend my days surrounded by a community of donors, recipient families, volunteers, and co-workers that truly understand and exemplify kindnesses, both big and small.
After meeting executive director, Jannette Festival, I quickly became interested in milk banking and all the benefits donor human milk can provide for premature and sick babies. I knew this was an organization I needed to be a part of and began volunteering. I was fortunate enough to be hired onto the team as staff soon after. As a student nurse, I am continuously applying my knowledge from the milk bank to many areas of health promotion and disease prevention. It makes me proud to tell people about the work I do, and to inform my peers about NorthernStar.