RUTLAND The March of Dimes Vermont State Chapter has awarded a community grant to Rutland Community Programs for the third consecutive year to implement Fresh Start for Baby and Me, aimed at reducing the rate of pregnant women who smoke in the Rutland area. The program provides pregnant smokers social support, plus incentives to motivate them to remain smoke free throughout their pregnancy. The March of Dimes has funded the program for three years with grants totaling $15,500. This represents just a few of many grants that the March of Dimes awards in pursuit of its mission to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Fresh Start for Baby and Me is based on a researched program model that can help pregnant women double their chances of quitting smoking, said Dianna Bassett of the Rutland District WIC program. It is estimated that more women in Vermont smoke during their pregnancy than 47 other states in the nation, and Rutland has one of the highest rates in the state. According to Bassett, 35% of pregnant women enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for the Rutland area smoke. That number doesnt bode well when compared to the 20% statewide average. We are grateful to those volunteers and organizations that support the March of Dimes by participation in events like March for Babies, she added. That participation, those donations and our partnership with the RAP Coalition and Rutland Community Programs make these grants possible. The March of Dimes has named Central Vermont Public Service the designated local sponsor of the 2008 grant award, in appreciation of their leadership in the March for Babies event and other efforts to strengthen local partnerships aimed at helping more babies be born healthy in the Rutland area. The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and fundraising through March for Babies SM, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org.