Community members come together for Safe Haven Baby Box blessing in Mitchell on Thursday

MITCHELL – The 110th Baby Box in the United States, and 84th in the state of Indiana was officially blessed Thursday afternoon at the Mitchell Volunteer Fire Department located at 105 Doc Hamilton Blvd.

From left: Paris Earl, Emma Higgs, Lisa Arthur, Monica Kelsey, and Amy Redman

Amy Redman, North Lawrence Career Center Director and former Child Development Teacher at Mitchell High School, could not put to words the feelings she had at the blessing, seeing a project bring the community together for a great cause was an unforgettable moment.

“What began as a classroom project to educate our community about postpartum depression turned into an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the mission of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, gain communication and marketing skills, and experience the giving heart of Mitchell. This is truly an unforgettable moment in our lives.”

Those in attendance of the Baby Box blessing

Lisa Arthur, Emma Higgs, and Paris Earl were all in Mrs. Redman’s class and were tasked with coming up with a project to help mothers dealing with postpartum depression, and the idea of a baby box shot to the top of the list.

“Our group had read an article about a baby in Seymour that had been abandoned on the side of the road, and it hit us kind of hard. Something so tragic, and close to home made us think about how to stop this from happening.

Mitchell City officials and Mitchell First Responders with the Baby Box

The class presented their idea to the Mitchell City Council, who within five minutes of their discussion, had won over the council. The next step was funding. Through bake sales, donations, and a community night, the students raised $5,000. This unfortunately was only half of what was needed to complete the project.

The class was put in contact with Mt. Horeb Church, the church that former MHJS Principal Jennifer Caruso attended, and they believed that Mrs. Caruso would have fought to back the project up, and donated the remaining $5,000 for the project.

Amy Redman addressing the crowd

COVID-19, supply chain woes, and waiting on the law to change pushed the project back, until April 26th and 27th when the installation process began. Now that it has been completed, the group hopes this will be a positive impact on the community.

“It is rewarding to see this project will be helpful to the City of Mitchell and Lawrence County,” said Lisa Arthur.

“This is took a lot of time, but our community and classmates worked together to bring this project together,” said Paris Earl.

“This feels so surreal, to a high school student to make this big of an impact,” said Emma Higgs.

City of Mitchell officials and Lawrence County Council member Rick Butterfield during the event

The box at the Mitchell VFD has an impressive response time of under 5 minutes for VFD members, Police Officers, and SEALS Ambulance crews to respond to the box when it is activated. VFD members, Mitchell Police, and SEALS Ambulance crews will all be trained on how to properly handle a situation when a child has been surrendered.

Mitchell Mayor J.D. England

“Within two seconds of a baby being placed in the box, the alarm system, interior camera, and radio alerts begin to go out,” said Mitchell Mayor J.D. England. “This morning as we were placing the proper stickers and identification marks, we had to call off the alert because it happened so fast. It took 45 seconds for all of that to come together, before calling it off as a test. This box will be tested weekly, to ensure it continues to work properly.”

Monica Kelsey, the founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, reiterated that once a child is placed in the box and the door is shut, it will latch and keep the baby protected. The exterior door will remain locked, and the child can only be secured inside of the firehouse to ensure the child is taken care of properly and safely.

Monica Kelsey with the Higgs family of Paoli (from left: Monica Kelsey, Tessa, Jaxson, Nola, and Keegan) Nola had been surrendered in a baby box and adopted by Keegan and Tessa

“That’s the best part, is once the child is in the box, only those trained to retrieve them can get to them,” said Monica Kelsey. A huge thank you to the students from Mrs. Redman’s class, the City of Mitchell, the Mt. Horeb Baptist Church, and all involved in making this happen.”

Kelsey would like to remind all of the mothers out there who are looking for help when it comes to caring for a child, or even surrendering a child, to visit the Safe Haven Baby Box website.

Those in attendance of the event

“There’s an 800 number on every one of our boxes and our website. We can assist you in every option and not just the baby boxes,” said Kelsey. “There are other options out there besides just surrendering you’re baby. The box should be your last resort, not the first. If there is any way we can help, we will.”