Lowcountry volunteers prepare gifts for newborns for 'National Day of Service'

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - Monday was a day off for a lot of folks, but volunteers in the Lowcountry were hard at work. It was all part their National Day of Service, partnering with local non-profit "Born to Read."

Folding, packing, and giving. That's how AmeriCorps volunteers with United Way of the Lowcountry spent the day, preparing the first gifts new babies and their parents will receive - aimed at making a lasting impact throughout their lives.

"Our mission is to educate parents on the importance of their role as the baby's first teacher," said Janie Ephland, Executive Director, Born to Read.

That's where Born to Read steps in. The group has over 50 volunteers at three hospitals including Beaufort Memorial, Coastal Carolina, and Hilton Head Hospital. Executive Director Janie Ephland says they're a small group, but the first non-profit that meets with a new baby when he or she is born.

"There's nothing better than going into new parents' rooms, because that's a happy place to volunteer. They're excited to share about their new baby. They're excited to get a gift for their baby, and they're ready to learn about things for their baby," Ephland said.

Each Born to Read bag comes with two books, a bib, a T-Shirt with the hospital's name on it, and information on how to help their child with oral language development and reading. It's a perfect partnership for AmeriCorps volunteers to take on - aligning with their early elementary literacy work in Beaufort and Jasper counties.

"To get kids reading on grade level by the time they enter 4th grade. That's a really important kind of turning point. They say that up to third grade, kids learn to read, and after that, they read to learn," said Carly Grubs, United Way AmeriCorps Program Director.

It's an important act both groups say is fitting for the day.

"Dr. Martin Luther King was about all of us being equal in the vision of raising our children. I think our volunteers end up feeling a part of that family. I really think they feel like that's their baby, too," said Ephland.

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