The Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates (COBA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Heidi Russell as its first-ever Executive Director. Russell comes to COBA with more than 25 years experience as a nonprofit development and communications professional with a wide range of healthcare knowledge. She brings a passion for programs and services focused on improving outcomes for Oklahoma’s children and families. A graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City, Russell holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Central Oklahoma and has previously served in an executive leadership capacity.
“As COBA expands its reach throughout Oklahoma, I am excited to step into the executive director role at a pivotal time in COBA’s growth. I am tremendously impressed with the deep commitment of its board of directors and its dedication to providing Oklahoma families with the support and resources they need to help their children grow healthy and strong,” said Russell.
“We are beyond excited to have a proven leader like Heidi join the COBA team,” said Becky Mannel, COBA Board Chair. “COBA is celebrating its 20th birthday this year and what a birthday present to receive! We look forward to working with Heidi as we increase our impact around the state.”
The Coalition of Breastfeeding Advocates is a volunteer led 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, and supporting breastfeeding in Oklahoma. COBA, founded in 2000, partners with the Oklahoma State Department of Health and other healthcare organizations and individuals to support families and improve access to breastfeeding and human milk for all children in Oklahoma.
COBA’s rich history of advocacy in Oklahoma includes meaningful legislative changes. In the early 2000s, the organization played a critical role in passing two state bills which empowered mothers to breastfeed anywhere they have a right to be, to be excused from jury duty upon request, and allowed mothers to use break and meal times to breastfeed or express milk at work. Additionally, the group was instrumental in ensuring employers provide a private area (other than a toilet stall) for nursing or expressing milk.
“COBA has paved the way for critical public health policies for families in Oklahoma,” said Russell. “There is more to be done to protect, promote and support breastfeeding families in Oklahoma and I’m eager to move us forward on those initiatives.”