Brittany Melby-Heimes

Brittany Melby-Heimes, who was named executive director of the Briggs & Barrett Project in Norfolk earlier this year, stands outside the organization’s new headquarters, which opened in March at 1108 Riverside Blvd., Suite A.

Brittany Melby is awestruck when she looks around the new home for the Briggs & Barrett Project.

The Norfolk nurse said she’s amazed at how much the mission had grown in five short years and by the fact that, up until March, it was carried out solely through volunteers and out of people’s homes.

“I don’t understand how they were doing it, but they were. And they’ve been very successful. It’s been amazing. It’s something for them to really be proud of,” said Melby, the longtime volunteer who was named executive director of the organization earlier this year.

The Briggs & Barrett Project started in 2018 as an effort to raise awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It is named after Briggs West and Barrett Uecker, sons of founders Melissa West and Allison Uecker who died of SIDS within mere weeks of one another.

Initially, the two women formed the organization to educate and provide resources for new parents so they wouldn’t have to endure the kind of loss their families did.

Working in partnership with Faith Regional Health Services, the women provided parents of newborns with sleep sacks and a copy of a book created to help educate parents about SIDS prevention.

Their work eventually expanded into a partnership with the maker of Owlet Dream Socks, a device that monitors a baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels and provides an alert if the baby needs assistance.

Today, Briggs & Barrett partners with 12 health care facilities, hospitals and clinics to help educate families on safe sleep and fulfills up to 75 requests monthly for Owlets, which retail between $299 and $399 depending on the device’s features.

“In five years, we’ve donated 2,100 Owlets,” Melby said. “It really is so cool. We have heard personal testimonies about the Owlet saving babies’ lives or catching something or making parents aware of something they need to get checked out.”

The organization also has grown to include projects like the Nursery of Hope, where families are invited to plan a legacy tree in remembrance of infants or children who have died; BB Crashers, a program where a deserving family that is expecting a baby is selected to have a shower registry fulfilled; the Meyer’s Retreat, which is held to support mothers who have lost a baby to SIDS; and BB Kids, which formed to provide tools, projects and monthly community service events to help children develop leadership and life skills.

“It’s very symbolic,” Melby said of BB Kids. “As Briggs & Barrett becomes a five-year project, the boys would’ve been 5 years old. At that age, a 5-year-old would want to get involved. They created a program where the kids in the community are giving back and helping others.”

BB Kids works to support other organizations and nonprofits in the community to help children ages 0 to 18 years old build self-esteem and a sense of teamwork, Melby said. There are 350 children registered in the program.

All of that growth led to a need for Briggs & Barrett to establish its own headquarters, which is now located at 1108 Riverside Blvd., Suite A, in Norfolk. It serves as a “home base” for people to do pick up shirt orders or drop off Owlet donations. It also provides a place for the board to regularly meet and a place for meaningful connections between the Briggs & Barrett Project and the community it serves.

“They can see everything we’re doing in one space,” Melby said. “Before, we were picking it up off of a porch in a tote.”

The new location also will help make growth of the organization easier. Briggs & Barrett kicked off its Big Give event on May 1 with an online auction, which will run through Monday, May 22. It will wrap up the event on Tuesday, May 23, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Midtown Event Center. More than 300 items will be available for purchase on its silent auction.

The organization’s goal this year is $99,000, which is substantially larger than last year’s goal of $65,000 but only $1,000 less than what Briggs & Barrett raised during last year’s Big Give, Melby said.

The funds raised will help Briggs & Barrett make an even bigger impact on lives moving forward, she added.

“We have 150 Owlet applications (monthly), and we only fill 75, which is still a lot,” Melby said. “Our goal is to fill all of those applications. We don’t want to have to deny somebody. And to fund all of these other programs, too — it’s a big goal.”

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