Virtual baby shower kicks off 911th FSS support programs for new and expecting parents

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Beth Kobily
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

No one fully prepares you for the birth of your first child. There are jokes that you’ll never sleep again (not entirely untrue), that your car will never be quite that clean (not entirely untrue) and that date nights will become few and far between (what’s a date night?). But few talk about the financial struggles, the toll of not having personal time, the frustrations of breastfeeding and pumping, the stress of making every decision about growth and development, and the new complications of work/ life balance that the incredible gift of parenthood brings.

COVID-19 adds even more challenges to pregnancy and parenting, with so many decisions to make weighing the risks and benefits of being near others for work, socialization and appointments. It added a challenge as Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Norris, readiness NCO with the 911th Force Support Squadron and mother to two young girls, sought to bring support she knew was needed to new and expecting mothers. But instead of letting this cancel her plans, she teamed up with local non-profit organizations to bring to the moms of our military community support on a virus-free platform.

On September 13, 2020, the 911th FSS, the USO of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, Cribs for Kids, and Genesis of Pittsburgh teamed up to host a virtual baby shower for new and expecting moms of the 911th Airlift Wing and other members of our military community.

“So many showers and special events have had to be canceled due to COVID-19,” said Norris. “I wanted to make this a special day for all of the moms and moms-to-be who have had a less than normal experience over the past several months. They deserve to be celebrated for their service, sacrifice and dedication to our country and our military families.”

The virtual baby shower included raffles, games, conversation opportunities with other new and expecting moms, advice on subjects like self-care after having a baby, resources available to them both on and off base, and presentations from Cribs for Kids and Genesis of Pittsburgh on topics such as safe sleep and baby milestones in the first year. Attendees also received a Bundles for Babies gift bag supplied by Genesis of Pittsburgh containing diapers, wipes, formula an insulated diaper bag and stuffed animals.

Though the event reached maximum capacity at 60 people, Norris said she expects to host another shower in April and continue doing baby showers twice a year. But her other goal is to bring support to the military parent community through the Bundles for Babies program, bringing baby supplies to any military parent who is expecting or has had a baby in the past 12 months.

“I heard about this program called bundles for babies at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, so I wanted to do something similar,” said Norris. “I reached out to Military OneSource in order to find information on partners in the local area. That’s when I came across Genesis of Pittsburgh. They agreed to supply bundles on a quarterly basis with essential needs such as diapers, formula, and wipes for all military members here.”

Military members of any branch interested in receiving a bundle for their baby on December 5th can contact Norris at 412.474.7110 or via email at

Attendee Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lindsey Cihimo, electronic systems maintenance warrant officer with Bravo Company 128th Brigade Support Battalion, said she learned a lot during the baby shower about resources near her that she didn’t know were available.

“I thought it was great, specifically that they’re still able to do something like this even during COVID,” said Cihimo. “They made it happen and it’s so nice to see.”

The appreciation and support was clear in the grid of faces at the virtual baby shower, but there wasn’t a smile bigger than Norris’. As she shared her experiences being a military mom through the birth of her daughters and educated others on things that helped her family get through tough times, the passion that drove the virtual baby shower event as well as the Bundles for Babies program at the 911th AW couldn’t have been clearer.

“I am so honored to work in Airman and Family Readiness and to have this opportunity to help organize such an amazing event that supports Airmen and their families,” said Norris. “I am also extremely thankful for the generous donations from our sponsors: the USO, Cribs for Kids and Genesis of Pittsburgh.”