Stuck in traffic on a spring day in 2016, Julie Bouchet-Horwitz had an epiphany as she watched a motorcycle breeze by.
The founder and executive director of the soon-to-be-opened nonprofit New York Milk Bank (NYMB), Julie was looking for an efficient way to transport donated breast milk from the bank’s Hastings, NY, processing facility, about 20 miles north of New York City, to hospitals in need. Maybe motorcyclists could be the answer. A Google search led her to the Sirens, New York City’s oldest, largest all-female motorcycle club. She pitched the idea to Jen Baquial, then the club’s president, who was immediately on board. “The whole concept of donor milk was new to me,” Jen explains. “I didn’t even know it was possible.”
The NYMB, which opened in September 2016, accepts donated breast milk from women in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Vermont, which it screens, pasteurizes, and then distributes to hospitals and parents who have prescriptions from their doctors. Recipients include mothers of premature and sick babies; adoptive, foster, and surrogate parents; women with full-term, healthy babies who don’t produce sufficient milk themselves; and LGBTQ families.
Helping the NYMB distribute milk fits well with the Sirens’ charitable mission, which aims to support organizations that affect women’s health and the LGBTQ community. The group has also raised money for Project Renewal ScanVan, a mobile mammogram service for homeless and uninsured women.
When the NYMB needs a Siren to do a delivery, a NYMB staffer shares the details via text. An available Siren responds to the message, picks up the milk, and takes it where it needs to go. The bank packs the breast milk in boxes filled with dry ice so it will remain at a safe temperature during transport.
The Sirens love interacting with the people who receive their deliveries. And while Jen sometimes gets a raised eyebrow when she first arrives on a motorcycle, she has fun meeting the babies and showing people that bikers aren’t all bad to the bone. “Maybe one of these babies we’ve been delivering milk to will grow up and become a member of our club,” Jen says. “Wouldn’t that be awesome?”
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