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A new year, a new baby

SALISBURY — Rowan County’s first baby of the new year, Brandon Mejia Bautista, was born to Alma Bautista Guerrero and Juan Carlos Mejia at 12:52 p.m. Tuesday.

Brandon is hale and healthy, weighing in at just over 6 pounds and measuring 19.5 inches long. He is the couple’s first child.

Extended family members crowded into the room on Novant Health Rowan Medical Center’s labor and delivery unit to welcome the newest addition.

Amy Brown had to wipe away tears when she saw that he was placed in a room dedicated to Shirley Ritchie, the founder of Smart Start Rowan.

Brown, Smart Start’s executive director, along with Mary Burridge, family support program lead, and Toi Degree, a Smart Start board member, arrived at Novant Health just after 3 p.m. to welcome Rowan County’s newest resident.

Brown and representatives of Smart Start Rowan gave the family a basket of goodies — including books, onesies, home safety equipment and a list of community resources.

“It’s like baby goodies, baby toys, baby essentials,” Brown said.

The gift basket was valued at $450.

Baby Bautista also received a plaque proclaiming him the county’s first baby of 2019.

Smart Start Rowan and Novant Health Rowan have partnered to welcome the first baby of the year for more than 15 years.

“It’s just an honor and a privilege to welcome the first baby,” Brown said.

The small celebration is a perfect representation of both organizations, which work to improve the lives of children in Rowan County. Smart Start works to improve literacy, health and wellness for children from prenatal to 5 years old.

“The well-being of the whole child is the key driving force for the work of the agency,” Brown said in an email, “and the support provided by Novant Health is a critical component of this work. The New Year, New Baby Basket tradition has stood the test of time and continues to be a wonderful community outreach project – one that is truly linked to the agency’s overall vision and mission.”

For those who work with children, the birth is small but significant.

“This baby represents all babies that are born the entire year,” Burridge said.

For Degree, getting to greet the first baby means her year is already made.

“This is the best part of the new tear — best part,” she said.

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