She met children who started life under circumstances that hampered their physical and mental well-being, she said. Working with a little girl who had fetal alcohol syndrome hurt her heart.
Linden wanted to find a way to help mothers be more successful, and babies more healthy.
Her nonprofit, Step by Step, brings medical professionals and volunteers to 1,400 families every year in three counties, including Snohomish County.
Recent local events included a diaper drive at the Lynnwood Police Department and a holiday party for families just south of the county line. Most families served in Snohomish County live in the Lynnwood, south Everett and Bothell areas.
Step by Step is about "giving Moms that little dose of the encouragement, the resources, the support, to parent well," Linden said.
"If life can be better and start out better for one child, and we can impact hundreds of children, it's very worth it to me," she said.
The group serves families who are expecting babies or who have new babies, Linden said. The families must meet state requirements for need. All of the clients are low-income and have risk factors in the home such as a history of medical problems, substance abuse or domestic violence.
Clients are referred by community partners including the Department of Social and Health Services, schools, medical professionals and churches, said Gail Danforth, a Step by Step administrator and behavioral health specialist. People also arrive by word-of-mouth.
Step by Step helps mothers identify and address concerns in their homes, Linden said. The group also connects families with community resources.
"When you're sitting in the home and you're establishing a relationship with them and you can see what's going on, you can just really get to the root of the problem," she said.
The nonprofit has about 30 paid staff, many of whom are licensed nurses and counselors.
There also are about 700 volunteers who meet with families and help organize events, such as community baby showers in Snohomish County for moms who don't have anyone to throw them a shower.
Volunteer Liz Pakkala, 38, offers interpreting services in multiple languages, especially Spanish, she said.
Step by Step lets her use her language skills in a meaningful way, she said. She can help mothers who need help with their pregnancies and new babies but don't have family support or medical insurance.
"This organization can come and relieve a little of that pain, so the family and the woman can concentrate on taking care of themselves," she said.
The diaper drive held earlier this year in Lynnwood netted hundreds of diapers, police spokeswoman Shannon Sessions said.
Several families in Lynnwood are served by Step by Step, Sessions said. The police department often hosts toy drives and food drives, and diapers seemed like a good idea.
"Diapers to new moms in need can be like gold," she said. "Diapers are expensive. They need them. It was something consumable that we could gather."
The word caught on, and earlier this month a class of fifth-graders at Lynnwood Elementary held a diaper drive for Step By Step as part of a program focused on learning about empathy, school officials said.
Step By Step always needs donations of cash, diapers and electric breast-feeding pumps. Newborn and size-one diapers are the most needed. For more information or to request services, call 1-888-996-0903 or go to stepbystepnews.org.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org
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