Child’s play just part of Helen Lyba’s job
Post Independent Staff
Just call Helen Leyba “Mother Hen.”
For 11 years, Leyba ” Garfield County Women, Infants and Children educator and retailer coordinator ” has taken on a motherly role at the WIC office in Rifle.
“I feel sort of like a mother hen because the mothers come to me with so many questions. They’ll even stop me at the store ” my job is ongoing. That’s what makes it fun,” said Leyba, a mother of three grown children. “We provide nutritional information, breastfeeding education and health referrals. We educate mothers with health issues and immunizations, and that’s the joy in all of this. I work with so many people of all ages.”
Through the county’s WIC program, Leyba helps mothers raise healthy babies ” and take care of themselves as well.
“Our goal is to make sure children are healthy, babies are healthy, but we also try to make sure that the mothers have good feelings about themselves and have proper diets and good nutrition,” said Leyba, of Rifle, who has been married for 39 years. “All of my clients, they will tell you they love the program.”
Born in Montrose and a graduate of Rifle High School, Leyba said she mostly enjoys working with the children who visit her office to be weighed, measured and monitored.
“We get to see all the babies grow up. Some of the kids, who were older when I started here, now have kids of their own,” said Leyba, who graduated from Adams State College in Alamosa. “I love kids and babies, and I think the kids like me, too.”
Fluent in both English and Spanish, Leyba said her childhood has helped her in developing close relationships with her clients. Leyba’s mother, who moved to Rifle to make a better life for her four daughters after their father abandoned them, made due with what she could.
“Growing up in that kind of environment, where my mom was sort of a single mother because our father left us when we were young, I can see where these mothers are coming from,” she said. “I try to make them comfortable and let them know that they can make a difference in their child’s health. They’re not alone.”
Leyba, whose parents are of Latino ancestry, said she learned Spanish by working at the WIC office. She wants people who are hesitant to become bilingual to understand her clients who are immigrants are here for the same reasons America’s forefathers came to the United States.
“There’s a real need for (being bilingual) in the valley. My parents didn’t really speak it. What I know, I learned here. Sometimes people feel a little pressured by it, but everybody is here for the same reason ” we want to make a better life,” said Leyba, who worked with Colorado Mountain College’s Senior Programs before working at WIC. “Everybody wants something better. That’s why America is called the land of opportunity.
Leyba said she welcomes diversity in the valley, especially Rifle.
“It has changed a lot from the little town where you knew everybody’s name,” she said. “But the good side of that is you get to know a lot of different kind of people. It gives our children opportunity to learn different backgrounds.”
Rocio Lara, a former receptionist in the WIC office for three year, said Leyba assisted her throughout her own pregnancy and was a major influence in her professional career.
“She’s an angel. What more can I say?” Lara said. “She’s really a special person. She helped me out a lot, from her own experiences. She even helped me find a job. She’s a remarkable woman.”
Leyba’s ability to connect with a variety of clients from a variety of cultures and backgrounds makes her an expert in her field, Lara said.
“She can relate to just about anyone. She was born here, but she knows the Hispanic culture,” she said. “She takes on a lot with all of our clients ” each one is different. She just helps everyone. It’s not the same for everyone.”
Lara said Leyba has always been dedicated to her faith, family and job, no matter life’s challenges.
“She’s very intelligent, whether it has to do with personal problems or work. She’s a handy woman,” Lara said. “She’s a very religious person. I know God helps her through every day and is the reason she is here.”
Leyba said she is honored to work at the Rifle WIC office, alongside a dedicated team, promoting a beneficial program for the community.
“It’s an excellent program, and I just can’t put into words how great it is. It’s just a good program to teach people healthy lifestyles,” she said. “The people I work with are excellent ” we just have a real good working relationship. I’m just thankful I can help people.”
Just like any good mother would do.
Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518
Name: Helen Leyba
Hometown: Montrose, Colo.
How long in Garfield County: 35 years
Occupation: Garfield County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) educator and retailer coordinator
Favorite place in Garfield County: Rifle Falls
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