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Florida VA hospital holds drive-through baby shower for women vets

VA Medical Center (Veterans Health/Flickr)
February 21, 2021

Among the people most cautious about COVID-19 have got to be moms-to-be, so traditional baby showers have turned creative.

That includes Saturday’s shower at Gainesville’s Malcom Randall VA Medical Center — in true coronavirus fashion, it was drive-through.

“This is fun and different and unique — I’ve never heard of a drive-through baby shower,” Army veteran Resila Joseph said. “Of course, it’s going to be nice to have all these supplies on hand when the baby comes.”

Joseph came from Tallahassee and is due with her baby boy in May.

Others who hit the road came from Jacksonville, Valdosta, Georgia, and places in between.

The hospital is part of the VA’s North Florida and South Georgia system. Cheryl Tillman, program manager for women veterans, said about 17,000 women veterans receive care through the system and more than 200 of them are pregnant.

Balloon-festooned tables were laid out along the hospital entrance driveway laden with baby blankets and pillows homemade by veterans organizations in the community.

Bags full of rattles, clothes, bibs and other baby needs were also handed out. Backpack diaper bags stuffed with items were another gift.

Music was piped through loudspeakers and the women veterans who packed the goods into vehicles bopped along to it.

Among them was Winette Cox, who works with the VA in Jacksonville. Cox said her first pregnancy was while was on active duty in the Navy 25 years ago, before the service or the VA began having baby showers.

“Something like this would have been really, really helpful,” Cox said.

Army veteran Natisha Bastien is also due in May. She decided to drive from Valdosta.

“I’m not having an in-person baby shower because of COVID,” Bastien said. “This is a fun way to celebrate.”

VA Chief of Staff Dr. Ilona Schmalfuss handed each of the women a rose as a parting gesture.

“It’s an awesome event. We usually have it inside but because of the pandemic we are out here,” Schmalfuss said. “We are trying to bring them some joy and support.”

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(c) 2021 The Gainesville Sun

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