Milwaukee VA Medical Center
VA showers new moms with baby needs
The Milwaukee VA Medical Center was buzzing Saturday morning as expectant Veterans collected much-needed items for their growing families during the “Sweet As Can Bee” drive-thru baby shower.
The event, organized through the Women Veteran Program and Voluntary Services, outfitted about 40 expectant mothers and new moms with diapers, strollers, baby wipes and other necessities for newborns.
“This is a great thing – how they help the Veterans in any way they need,” said Letrane Spears, a U.S. Navy Veteran from Milwaukee who has three boys – ages 10, 6 and 5 – and a daughter due in February.
After pulling up to the loading area behind the hospital, Spears and her 5-year-old son Terrell had their picture taken and received cookies and water while volunteers loaded her car.
In addition, Terrell picked out something for himself from a bin filled with toys, dolls and coloring books.
“He was trying to pick out girl toys, and I was like, ‘No, you pick something for yourself. We got something for the baby,’” Letrane said. “He’s excited.”
The scene played out numerous times during the two-hour event as volunteers and staff -- sporting bee-like antenna head gear -- scurried to load up the cars.
And the parents were appreciative.
“It’s fantastic,” said new mom Kelli Groszczyk of Waukesha, holding her newborn Maple. “We actually had a stroller emergency last weekend, so now we have an extra.
“And diapers. She goes through so many diapers. I had no idea. You don't realize how much stuff that baby needs until they're here. Every little bit helps.”
Kelli served in the Army for nine years, and her husband Greg said he appreciated VA’s support for Veterans like his wife.
“She put in so much time with the Army, and this is a way of giving back to those Veterans,” he said. “It’s a nice extra benefit for time served.”
Spears agreed, lauding VA for the maternity care she has received, before and after the births of her children.
“That’s not something they have to do, so I really appreciate that they do this,” Spears said.
All the items for the baby shower were provided through donations from the community. When the call went out earlier this summer, groups and individuals jumped at the chance to help:
A local Knights of Columbus council donated $10,000, and the Wisconsin American Legion Auxiliary kicked in more than $5,000 in donations along with many handmade items. (See the story here.) Also, a local Boy Scout gathered $4,000 worth of donations as part of his Eagle Scout project.
In-kind and monetary donations for the event totaled more than $27,000.
“The generosity was amazing,” said Katie Wisniewski, manager of the Women Veteran Program. “We’re so fortunate that we could do this this year, especially with COVID going on. The help here and the help from the community was just amazing.”
While about 22 Veterans came through Saturday’s event, others will receive their items at a later date, including Veterans in the Green Bay-Appleton area.
“We had a really good turnout,” Wisniewski said. “People were really happy with all the gifts they were receiving. They said they didn’t need to have their own baby showers because they were gifted with so many things.”
Wisniewski said she hopes the shower becomes a semiannual event – each spring and fall.
“This is our first one, and I have to say it was a success,” she said. “We’ll make it bigger and better next year.”