When a nationwide baby formula shortage hit Colorado, Emily Swanson wasn’t thinking about herself.
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When a nationwide baby formula shortage hit Colorado, Emily Swanson wasn’t thinking about herself. Swanson — a mother of two and a Lakewood resident — wasn’t personally affected by the shortage, as her newborn son isn’t on formula, but saw social media posts from friends who were impacted and wanted to help.
“I was seeing all of my friends back in Texas posting (about needing formula) and I was at the grocery store one day and I was like, ‘Hey, our formula aisles are pretty stocked,’” Swanson said.
She then took a picture of the stock and sent it to a friend, asking if they needed any of the available formula. The friend said they did, and Swanson sent the formula to them. From there, Swanson decided to ramp up her efforts.
Swanson formed a Facebook group and invited her close friends from her home state of Texas to see if she could help any of them get formula. The group was so successful that its membership grew into the thousands. One of those members was Kristen Gustafson.
Gustafson — an Arvada resident who is on the Board of Advisors at A Precious Child, a nonprofit based in Broomfield that helps children in need — had been posting pictures of formula aisles in Swanson’s group and wanted to combine their efforts.
One day, a photo Gustafson posted in Swanson’s group prompted a response from Julia Walker, the founder of Hope, Connection and Community; an Arvada-based nonprofit that aims to help the less fortunate. Through HCC, Walker had been connecting parents in need with formula, and the two decided to combine their efforts.
“We just thought it would be a good way to bridge HCC and APC,” Gustafson said. “It really just made sense. We’re out here beating the streets together, let’s just join our efforts. Individually we’re little pieces of thread; together, we’re rope.”
Walker and Gustafson got Swanson involved — Swanson said she wanted to work with a nonprofit to be able to provide tax-write off incentives for prospective donors — and the three put their heads together and devised a plan to coordinate formula resources for parents in need.
Through HCC, the trio has raised over $15,000 in donations, which they are using to cover costs to provide formula to parents in need for free. Walker said that moms on WIC benefits get priority, but the nonprofit does not want to turn any parent away — though it aims to help local parents first.
“There is a group of us who are scouring stores day and night,” Walker said. “We are watching and getting alerts on our phones when inventory is available and at what locations… We have other local moms who are being our eyes out there and saying, ‘I found it here,’ and if we can grab it for us, we reimburse them. It’s quite a village worth of an effort.
“I can understand the worry and the concern that is, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re buying up our supply and shipping it out,’” Walker continued. “So, our efforts are all local to Colorado. This is not an Arvada-specific effort, but a lot of our efforts have always been to support our local community. But since this is such a large issue, we aren’t just isolating our support to residents within Arvada.”
Walker said that moms from Thornton, Northglenn, Aurora, Wheat Ridge and other local municipalities have come to HCC for formula and Gustafson added that the trio has received formula donations from Kansas, South Carolina, New Hampshire and other states.
Swanson said that although she isn’t usually a team player and she, Walker and Gustafson all come from different walks of life, she’s enjoyed working with them and says the trio has formed a unique bond.
“Not only has it been awesome to meet other really strong, powerful, incredible women that I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to meet otherwise, but it’s like we talk all the time now,” Swanson said. “And not just about this. We became fast friends. We’re like girlfriends now. I very much anticipate remaining friends with them after this is all over.”
Donations can be made directly to HCC through its fundraising website. Parents in need can message HCC through their Facebook page to get on their waiting list. Walker said that although WIC parents will be prioritized on the waitlist, no parent will be turned away.
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