Dixie Johnson hopes to make a positive impact on first-time mothers and babies who might need that extra hand.

Johnson is a nurse for Meeker County Public Health’s Supporting Hands Nurse-Family Partnership program, a free source of support for eligible first-time mothers that has been around for more than 10 years. Supporting Hands nurses like Johnson seek to provide mothers the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy, a healthy baby, and be the best mother they can be.

“I love our program, because … we get to meet moms for 10 months,” Johnson said. “And we get to have a little time with them — one-on-one — and help them teach … first themselves, and then their little ones — on how to be healthier, how to make good choices, lower their stress levels. We do some readings with them to make sure that they're on track for their age and their stage.”

The Supporting Hands program has served around 1,222 first-time mothers in 20 different counties such as McLeod, Kandiyohi, Renville, Douglas and others, since 2008, according to Meeker County Public Health.

Lindsay Kaizer of Litchfield birthed her first child, Lainey Kramp, eight months ago, and Johnson has been supporting baby and mother for nearly one year.

Kaizer has found Johnson's support invaluable. 

“I would say during the beginning, it was really helpful,” Kaizer said, “because I’m a first-time mom, the first time being pregnant, I had no idea what I was doing. So (Johnson) was just there for me to talk to and answer questions and give me any kind of information that I could possibly need.”

The services Johnson provides focus on ensuring babies are healthy and growing, she said. Johnson has been helping Kaizer with emotional support, relationship screening, and checking Lainey’s growth by looking at key measurements of weight, height and head circumference — and vitals. In addition, Johnson observes how Kaizer communicates with her daughter.

“If I see something that maybe needs a little boost,” Johnson said, “I can bring that information to her at other meetings.”

Following Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz's order for businesses to use social distance and telecommunication — Johnson has since been communicating with Kaizer via FaceTime, a video-chat option between iPhones, for about a week, she said. 

“We want to be as compliant for the privacy of our clients as much as we can” Johnson said. "Now the office is working on other methods for telecommunication, such as Zoom."

Having had her first child has been like a rollercoaster ride, Kaizer said, "But it’s been the best thing ever overall." 

 “Through birth — through her growing — and all that fun stuff, she's been so awesome,” she continued about the help she and Lainey have received from Johnson. “So I think one of my favorite parts, honestly, is the fact that they're able to do like weight measurement type, all that kind of stuff, just to help me have peace of mind.”

Being a new member of the family, Lainey has added much light, joy and love in her parents' lives, Kaizer said.

 “It's so awesome," she said. "It's nerve-wracking having someone totally dependent on me. But it's so awesome watching her grow and seeing all the new things that she learns every day and it's just so fun.”

Johnson said the Supporting Hands Nurse-Family Partnership program has shown positive outcomes in the progress of mothers and babies.

“There are lots of reasons why this program is a good fit for moms,” Johnson said. “We just reach out to moms that are more of the underserved. So we're looking at a certain income level that might not have as much access to the care that they need because we're wanting them to have a springboard of getting into a good home situation, a good health situation.”

Kaizer highly recommended the Supporting Hands program, especially for new mothers who might be eligible. 

“Because they are just so much help,” she explained. “They will be there like (Johnson) said, and for somebody who maybe doesn't have the family support around here or just doesn't have family support. They are here to do that. They are here to help. The program is fantastic.”