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HICKORY – Catawba Valley Health System announces the appointment of Kelli Webber to the position of Volunteer Services Coordinator. Webber will oversee the reinstated Cuddler program for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and nursery.

The Cuddler program has been redesigned to include the treatment of infants born drug addicts and suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Instead of sending drug-addicted babies to the NICU, research now indicates infants will recover faster through an approach known as ‘eat, sleep and comfort’, developed by Associate Professor Dr Matthew Grossman and pediatrician at Yale University.

According to this new model, instead of treating the infant with opioids and weaning it, the baby will stay with the mother in the hospital room. The mother will be encouraged to console the baby without using medication. Volunteers will be used to give mothers a break so they can rest, watch over siblings or deal with other issues.

Volunteers will receive specialized training on how to properly hold and soothe infants, how to relate to parents, and other expectations. In addition to regular volunteer training, there will be a four-hour course including simulations with a baby dummy and advanced education. Anyone interested in this or other volunteer programs should contact Kelli Webber at 828-326-3434 for more information.

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Webber’s duties also include managing the medical center’s gift shop, recruiting and training, managing the Pet Therapy and Volunteen programs, and creating safety guidelines for safe workspaces for volunteers.

Webber has extensive experience recruiting, retaining and training volunteers in a variety of past roles. She was previously employed by CVHS Occupational Health. Prior to that, she served on the leadership team at Zoar Church in Shelby, where she was responsible for recruiting volunteers. A skilled potter herself, Webber has also served as a member and social media coordinator for Buffalo Creek Pottery.