The Grand Casino Hotel & Resort Event Center, outside Shawnee, Oklahoma, was filled with families as Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Workforce Development & Social Services Department hosted the sixth Community Baby Shower Tuesday, March 7.
The event was open to anyone pregnant or with children up to the age of 3, including grandparents raising their grandchildren, foster parents and guardians.
The number of attendees has fluctuated through the years — usually around 750, except during the pandemic in 2021 when a drive-thru shower served 350 families. Stephanie D. McElfresh, a counselor for Safe and Stable Families Homemakers Services, said this year drew a crowd of around 1,100, about 45 percent of whom came from a Native American household.
“Every year, it has grown (except for 2021 during the pandemic), and I am excited to say this year’s numbers were the highest,” said Kym Coe, internship and project coordinator for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Department of Education.
The Community Baby Shower offered families a chance to take classes, learn about available services and even walk away with some free items.
Some of the day’s booths included:
- Pottawatomie County Health Department offering vaccinations
- Sooner Success offering vouchers for caregivers
- CPN Health and Benefits helping families sign up for SoonerCare
- Gateway to Recovery and Prevention handing out medicine lock boxes
- CPN Workforce Development & Social Services helping Native families apply for assistance
Mary Simms, the children’s department supervisor with the Shawnee Public Library, helped with the Pioneer Library System booth. To promote the library’s Growing Like a Read (GLAR) program, attendees received free literacy bags with items such as board books and tips for reading to children. Families also learned how to sign up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, where children ages 1 through 5 receive a book each month through the mail.
“It’s just great to promote the wonderful signature service programs that we have at the library, and we have so many that are considered early literacy and school readiness. We’re just so excited to be here,” Simms said.
Outside, Bonnie Simons, a voucher specialist for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Child Development Center, distributed 300 available car seats to families that needed them.
“We have the option that they can take it with them, or they can have them professionally installed,” she said. “We handed out all sorts of paperwork to show safety and the right car seats for the right ages.”
A chance to learn
This year, the event offered classes about music and story time with the Shawnee Public Library as well as infant CPR, perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMADS), vaping 101, safe sleep and fire safety.
Those who attended classes could put their name in drawings for a changing table, crib, trundle bed, glider, messaging recliner and other items.
“Each participant walked away with a goodie bag that had nail clippers, sensory balls, children’s vitamins and so much more,” McElfresh said. “We had some items that were donated from Feed the Children as well as other businesses throughout the community.”
Danielle Rains and Taylor Bivings, through the Drug Free Communities Grant with Gateway to Prevention and Recovery, taught the informational session about vaping.
Rains said Bivings showed attendees one of their awareness campaigns that included a mock teen bedroom where they hid products to show how many are designed to look like everyday items, such as Juul products that look like USB drives.
“We got into secondhand and thirdhand exposure, especially for young children, toddlers, babies, pregnant women,” she said. “We talked about some emerging trends.”
Bivings said they also discussed the chemicals in vaping aerosol and the dangers of nicotine, including what to do if a child gets into nicotine products.
Resources for parents
Stephanie Oldham attended the baby shower for the first time this year. Though she did not attend any classes — she said it is difficult with three children along — she found the event helpful.
“It gave me a lot of resources,” she said. “We’re trying to get some tutoring, and it offered some stuff for that. And I have a friend who has a special needs child, so it let me get some information for her since she wasn’t able to come today.”
Lacey Buettner, a CPN tribal member from Moore, Oklahoma, said she has attended three times and gotten “so much information and guidance.”
When she thought one of her children had gotten into some dangerous products, she had a magnet on her refrigerator from attending before, and she used that information to know what to do and get the number for Poison Control.
“This whole thing has been great for people that may not get this information elsewhere,” she said. “I really appreciate it.”
The common good
McElfresh said the event gives the community a chance to come together for the common good.
“The Community Baby Shower may be giving a family that may not have a support system the resources that are offered in the community. It also gives some families a baby shower that may not receive one due to the lack of family support,” she said.
Coe still remembers the first baby shower she helped organize. A teary mother hugged her and thanked her after winning a crib, and Coe looked around at the vendors and volunteers that made it possible.
“Every year, it has grown, and I am so blessed that CPN, along with many other organizations, has the means to have an event like this,” she said. “Seeing families so very thankful for the prizes and, more importantly, the tools they are provided at this event. This is why we do it. At one point this year, I looked around and saw so many families visiting with all these different organizations, and my heart was so happy.”
For more information about community programs, visit the Workforce Development & Social Services page at cpn.news/WFSS.