When babies are born prematurely or have a difficult birth, they must sometimes be placed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
"All babies need to be held. All babies need to be comforted sometimes," said Gay Ann Talley, volunteer coordinator at Hamilton Medical Center. "And babies in the NICU especially need to be held. The nurses there do a great job. But they have to really focus on the babies' medical needs. And the parents can't always be there because they have to go back to work. That's where our volunteer cuddlers are so vital. The parents can take comfort in the fact that there are loving, caring people here to comfort their babies when they can't be here."
All of those volunteer cuddlers play a vital role. But Talley says two — the husband and wife duo of Sherry and Dianne Cole — have really stepped up.
"They haven't been with us long. They came on board in July 2019," she said. "We ask all of our cuddlers to give us three hours a week. But Sherry and Dianne have already given us over 132 hours because they are always there to fill in when somebody is sick and can't come in."
That sort of compassion is commendable. But Sherry and Dianne Cole have gone above and beyond that.
"Their hearts were broken when they noticed that some of the babies would leave our NICU without anything that belonged to them," said Talley. "So they decided to do something about that."
Sherry and Dianne Cole are members of First Baptist Church of Tunnel Hill, and with the help of a group at that church called the Levi Circle, they began putting together bags for the babies so they would have something that belonged just to them.
"These bags are nice diaper bags filled with bottles, blankets, clothes, bottle washers," said Talley. "The bags are filled to the brim with so much I can't even list it all."
For their efforts to give comfort to some of our most vulnerable, the Daily Citizen-News names Sherry and Dianne Cole Citizens of the Week.