WINDSOR, Colo. — In 2019, Graciela Hernandez and her mom had just gotten custody of her cousin’s three children: a seven year-old, a toddler and a newborn.
Though Hernandez worked to help her mom support the kids, the family was struggling to afford diapers and formula. So, Hernandez reached out to mom groups on Facebook for help.
One parent suggested contacting Stork Support of Northern Colorado, a growing nonprofit organization that provides maternity, postpartum and baby supplies to under-resourced families from pregnancy and throughout the baby’s first year.
Nikola Reinfelds, the executive director of the organization, said there are only two requirements to receive services from Stork Support of Northern Colorado: the support request must come from a caregiver of an infant in the first year, and the caregiver must communicate respectfully.
“There’s a lot of great resources, mainly in Larimer County and Fort Collins,” Reinfelds said. “But a lot of families didn’t have access to those resources because they didn’t have access to transportation.”
She explained that the organization tries to keep requirements low to limit the barriers to entry that under-resourced families can experience, such as the cost to provide proof-of-residence.
Reinfelds herself was once a Stork Support client and a volunteer for the organization.
“I was getting ready to have my second child. I was feeling very alone. And after having the second child, postpartum is hard … So Stork Support became a resource for me to just find purpose again,” she said.
When founder Lisa Jensen moved away from Colorado, Reinfelds stepped in to help turn Stork Support into an official non-profit organization.
According to Reinfelds, Stork Support has already completed 497 support requests this year. They have provided postpartum kits — which always include period supplies — as well as clothes, blankets, bottles and more.
Hernandez remembered feeling nervous about joining Stork Support’s Facebook group because she worried that they would give her information out.
But she found that people weren’t pressured to speak to other parents in the Facebook group, and support requests could be submitted discretely by filling out the form on the Stork Support website or sending a private message to the Facebook page.
After submitting a support request, the organization helped provide formula and diapers for Hernandez’s family.
In 2021, Hernandez discovered she was pregnant and reached out to Stork Support again.
“I was already three months along, and I had nothing prepared,” she said. “I didn’t have a job. I had just started my job the day that I found out I was pregnant, and they did not want me going back because they didn’t want me working pregnant in the kitchen.”
Stork Support provided Hernandez’s family with enough formula for two months, as well as some clothes for her baby and her boyfriend’s then one-year-old.
“It just helped a lot … We were able to pay bills and be able to get what we needed for the babies without having to struggle,” Hernandez said.
Realizing they only needed one month of support, Hernandez and her family returned the extra formula and diapers that weren’t used so that other families that needed those resources could use them.
According to Reinfelds, the organization limits the number of families that receive support each month so that there is capacity to respond to families in emergency situations. While the link to the request form on the website is currently closed, Reinfelds’ work number for text messages is still provided for emergency requests.
“Emergency requests can look like a foster parent that received an emergency placement with nothing but the clothes on the baby’s back. They can look like a family that experienced a home fire. It can look like a family escaping domestic violence. It can look like a family that wasn’t prepared for the cost of living along with the cost of bringing a baby home,” Reinfelds said.
Hernandez has seen moms talk to each other about what’s helped them when they have a newborn: information about breastfeeding, tips to handle sleep deprivation, nighttime routines that help with colicky babies, resources for postpartum depression.
She has met a couple of parents in-person so that their kids could have playdates with each other, and she has also messaged moms privately to ask for advice.
“I kind of felt embarrassed having to ask for help to be able to take care of my kids, but they don’t make it feel like that at all.” Hernandez said.
Like Hernandez, Sachell Muniz heard about Stork Support from a fellow parent in another Facebook group. Muniz was pregnant, and her family couldn’t afford to buy baby supplies brand new.
At first, Muniz also felt reluctant to ask for support.
“I felt like maybe there’s somebody out there that needs it more than I do, or maybe there’s somebody out there that is in a worse situation than I am. But those resources were put there for people like us that are struggling,” Muniz said.
In the past, Muniz’s family has received toys, clothes, spoons, bowls, bottles, formula and a booster seat – items that Muniz said that parents might not expect to need right away or can add up quickly – from Stork Support of Northern Colorado.
“Once we’re done with it, we try to keep it in really good condition, and then we’re able to give it back to [Nikola Reinfelds] so she can pass it on to the next family,” Muniz said.
For families that need support, Muniz had some words of encouragement: “Don’t be afraid to reach out … Just live your life. They are your child, and you are parenting them the way that you know best or you feel is best for your child.”
Theresa Ho is the RMPBS Kids digital content producer. You can reach her at [email protected].