Sharice Williams hands a box of diapers to a local family participating in the Drive-Thru Baby Shower, hosted Sept. 17 at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial Hospital. As community outreach coordinator at Ingalls, Williams helped launch the event in 2020.
Quandra Gosa spent weeks eyeing those wheels. As she neared her due date, the soon-to-be-mother wanted transport that would keep her infant safe, in the car and on sidewalks. The price tag of the car seat-stroller combo, however, felt just out of reach.
Her waiting paid off when she attended the third annual Drive-Thru Baby Shower, hosted by UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial Hospital, to help families in need across Chicago’s South Suburbs. Gosa, 34 weeks pregnant, won the stroller in a raffle, a welcome surprise for a new baby.
“That was one item that she kept in her shopping cart online,” said Shanice Williams, who organized the Sept. 17 event at Ingalls. “It was something that she wanted, but she hadn’t had the money to get it just yet. For us to provide that to her—oh, she was so excited! She just kept saying, ‘Oh my God, oh my God!’”
As Ingalls community outreach coordinator, Williams helped launch this signature event for the Harvey-based hospital’s Healthy Baby Network, a free program that connects residents with medical, nutritional and financial assistance. Part of Ingalls’ Family Birth Center, the program provides resources by partnerships with local retailers, government agencies and other organizations.
At this year’s Drive-Thru Baby Shower, organized in partnership with the Family Christian Health Center, 120 families received bags filled with diapers, wipes, clothing and other supplies, along with educational materials on prenatal and maternal health. Car seats and baby formula were among the raffle items.
It is a beautiful event that happens every single year. We’re very happy to be here participating, helping underserved communities in Harvey and other neighborhoods.
Each gift bag “helps that baby start their life,” Williams said. “It helps their mom with a little bit of assistance.”
All items were distributed in less than an hour, marking the 2022 event the most popular Drive-Thru Baby Shower yet. Car-seat technicians and volunteers were on hand to help participants adjust and test car seats they already owned to ensure proper fits for child safety.
“Thank you all so much,” said Gosa. “We really appreciate it.”
‘A pillar for our community’
The Drive-Thru Baby Shower launched in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic as a response to increased community need—and as a socially distanced pivot from Babypalooza, which began in 2014 at Ingalls to connect south suburban residents with prenatal education and maternity resources.
Over the course of three years, the Drive-Thru Baby Shower has become more than a stopgap option. Thanks to marketing, social media and word of mouth, the reimagined event has grown into a key part of UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial’s efforts to improve maternal and child health in Harvey and other towns.
“It is a beautiful event that happens every single year,” said Adalgisa Helena Lobo, a community health worker at the Family Christian Health Center. “We’re very happy to be here participating, helping underserved communities in Harvey and other neighborhoods.”
Added Williams: “It was so, so fulfilling.”
These efforts provide crucial support in a region where many Black women still face healthcare barriers and suffer disproportionately high rates of pregnancy-related complications and deaths.
Across Cook County, more than 14% of Black babies suffer from low birth weights, compared to over 8% of babies in the general population. According to the Ingalls Memorial Community Health Needs Assessment, mothers in the hospital’s service area—which focuses on the 13 zip codes of Thornton Township—reported being unaware of social services such as free nutrition programs.
Part of the mission of the Healthy Baby Network is to bridge the gap between local residents and healthcare resources. Pre-pandemic events included tours of the Family Birth Center, which offers 23 private suites and healthcare experts dedicated to making labor and delivery more comfortable.
Williams hopes to resume tours again in the future—reopening in-person access to complement the Drive-Thru Baby Shower, which will continue to develop in order to match growing interest from the community.
“We’re a pillar for our community,” she said.
Article written by Jack Wang, Senior Communications Specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine