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Richmond Fire Department Blesses City's First Safe Haven Baby Box

RICHMOND, Ind. — The city of Richmond has launched what it calls “a new chapter in providing hope and support to mothers in crisis.”

That hope and support came in the form of the city's first Safe Haven Baby Box, a safe and anonymous way for mothers to leave their newborns in need.

The Baby Box was installed at the east end of Richmond Fire Department Station 1, 101 S. 5th St., and was dedicated June 20 after receiving a blessing from department chaplain Eliott LaRue. City officials were also in attendance.

What are Safe Haven Baby Boxes?

The Richmond Baby Box is the 242nd in the country (128th in Indiana) built by Safe Haven Baby Boxes, a nonprofit founded in 2015 by Monica Kelsey as a legal alternative to ending infant abandonment. The organization currently serves 17 states and is headquartered in Woodburn, Indiana, a small town just east of Fort Wayne.

Before Richmond received its Baby Box, the closest locations were in Muncie, Winchester, New Castle and Connersville.

Kelsey was unable to attend the blessing, but Mariah Betts, the project's assistant coordinator, said Kelsey started the organization when she learned she had been abandoned as a baby and saw a Baby Box being used at a church in Cape Town, South Africa.

“She has made it her personal mission to educate others about the Safe Haven Act and to do whatever she can to save the lives of innocent babies from abandonment,” Betts said during the blessing. “I met Monica at the fire department where she worked with my husband. When she shared her idea with me, I knew I had to help.”

As of June 20, Betts said the organization had dropped off 50 babies in the baby boxes over the years and helped 150 parents drop off their babies in person.

“Thank you to the Richmond Fire Department for giving families another option to safely care for their newborn,” she said.

Mayor Thanks Community for Making Baby Box Possible

Mayor Ron Oler thanked the Wayne County Foundation, Neighborhood Health, Smarrelli General Contractors, Protek Corp. and Cummins Electric for helping to make this blessing possible.

“It takes a community of dedicated professionals and concerned citizens to make things like this happen,” he said at the event. “It makes me so happy. What they’ve done here today will save lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”

The chaplain officially blesses the box

LaRue read a passage from the Bible, Mark 10:14, which says: “But when Jesus saw it, he was very displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

“The Lord has a very special place in His heart for little ones,” LaRue said. “And I’m sure that this Baby Box will be used at some point, and it’s a wonderful opportunity that we get to be a part of it. We just hope that if and when it does, that this child will be taken care of and find a loving home and have a long and happy life.”

After LaRue said a prayer to bless the box, Betts officially opened the box for use, adding, “This box offers no shame, no blame and no names.”

As of July 9, the box had not yet been used.

Evan Weaver is a sports and news reporter at the Palladium-Item. Contact him on X (@evan_weaver7) or email him at [email protected].

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