Nurturing Hope and Saving Lives in the NICU Through Dedication to Mothers’ Milk Bank

Daily Point of Light # 7801 Apr 30, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree JC Morlu. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

In WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank in North Carolina, JC Morlu’s journey of volunteerism paints a picture of deep compassion and dedication. Originally starting as a milk donor, JC has seamlessly transitioned into a vital volunteer in the day-to-day operations of this crucial nonprofit, which supplies a critical need: pasteurized donor milk to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) across the east coast.

JC’s initial involvement with WakeMed began during her breastfeeding period for her second daughter, during which she donated 100 gallons of breast milk. This substantial contribution not only supported countless newborns in need but also marked the beginning of her profound connection with the milk bank. Moving from Charlotte to Raleigh simplified her donation process, creating stronger ties with the staff and deepening her commitment to the bank’s mission.

After completing her donations, JC didn’t step back; instead, she stepped further into the heart of the operation. During her weekly three-hour shifts, JC takes on a variety of crucial tasks in the milk lab. From cleaning sanitary hoods and washing dishes to handling pasteurized milk, her work ensures the smooth functioning of the lab. Each task, while seemingly small, plays a vital part in maintaining the sterile environment necessary for milk pasteurization and preparation.

Recognizing her passion and the importance of the milk bank’s mission, JC expanded her role by joining the Volunteer Board. As a secretary, she now dedicates additional hours each month to the executive committee and monthly meetings. Her focus is on enhancing volunteer experiences, increasing volunteer engagement, and contributing to the hospital community.

Read on to find out why JC continues to contribute to this life-saving cause.

Why is this issue so important to you?

Everyone says it takes a village in regard to raising kids. Not everyone has a village capable of supplying fragile babies with life-saving nutrients, so they need to expand the village to find help. When babies come into this world, they are 100% reliant on someone else for life. When mothers are unable to provide milk or the baby is unable to nurse, the Mothers’ Milk Bank saves the day with lovingly cared for donors’ milk. They are the village mothers and babies need and didn’t even realize they had!

What inspired you to get started with this initiative?

With both of my babies, I was blessed with an abundance of supply. I leveraged that blessing with our first child by relying on stored milk to get us through one year of breast milk. Before our second, I did research on other options because I felt I was missing an opportunity to do more. I discovered the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank, reached out to them and got the process started to become a donor.

After donating over 100 gallons, I wasn’t ready to step away, so I worked with WakeMed to become a volunteer within the milk bank. Late last year I also became secretary of the WakeMed Cary Volunteer Board and am grateful not only to still be connected to the milk bank, but also to continue to do my part to get involved with this amazing hospital, its staff and fellow volunteers.

What are your long-term plans or goals with the organization?

Awareness. While I am truly honored when I receive recognition for my volunteer efforts, I am more focused on how I can shine that lightly more brightly on the Mothers’ Milk Bank. The work they do is life-saving and without awareness of their work and increased milk donors, they cannot continue to provide milk for NICU babies in North Carolina and along the East Coast.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

Many of the volunteers at WakeMed interact with patients on a daily basis and have the most rewarding and touching stories to share about those experiences. I, however, work in the lab and never see patients. I do see the women who work in the milk bank, though, and those relationships mean so much to me.

Each time I volunteer, I get to catch up with an old friend. We’ve been through highs and lows together and I’ve never seen people work so hard. I’ve worked with nonprofit organizations since high school so I know their staff are typically made up of a special kind of person who puts the mission of saving others first and these ladies are no exception. From the interns, to my fellow volunteers, to the technicians and the manager, they all work tirelessly to properly prepare the valuable milk for the babies.

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?

Nonprofit organizations do exceptional work, but they cannot do it alone. They need volunteers to step in to support the cause, not just for extra hands making light work, but to bring awareness to the cause and organization. We are all blessed with skills in this life and sharing that talent with others is our way of leaving a legacy. Showing up for the cause helps the organization, it allows you to make an impact, and it also feels really good to connect with others. In this world today, feeling good goes a long way.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

Quite simply, just do it. You may not find your forever organization the first time, and the causes you care about may change, and that is okay. The important thing is to keep trying and find what works for you. Volunteering takes time and it is time away from your family or job, so it has to mean something to you, not just the organization you support.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like JC? Find local volunteer opportunities.


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