Vevay and Switzerland County came together on Sunday afternoon to officially dedicate and bless the new ‘Safe Haven Baby Box’.
The box, which is designed to allow a parent to safely give up their baby in an anonymous way, is located at the Switzerland County Emergency Response building on East Main Street. It is located there because the building is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with emergency health services personnel.
State Representative Randy Frye, who helped spearhead changes in state law to allow the box to be located at the SCER building, and also helped in the promotion of donations to help pay for and provide ongoing maintenance for the box, served as the emcee for Sunday’s ceremonies.
“Indiana is on the cutting edge with baby boxes,” Frye told the large audience. “We have 87 now — this is our 87th baby box — …and I just want you to know that we lead the whole country by light years. Not only is this important for Vevay, but for all of Indiana, because on Friday we passed the strongest pro-life bill in the United States here in Indiana. These moms in crisis have to have a place, where if they can’t raise this baby, they can bring it to a safe environment where a loving family will take it and love it forever and ever and ever.”
Frye told the audience a little history about how the Switzerland County Baby Box came to be. He said that Josh South, former County Commissioner who was in attendance, along with Mary Beth Boone and Amy Arbuckle from the Madison Mission, got together to see how to make a box here a reality.
“We got together and decided that we wanted a baby box over here in Vevay, and Josh and I got together about two years ago thinking we could have one, but we couldn’t,” Frye said. “We had to change the law (previously, baby boxes were only allowed at 24 hour healthcare facilities such as hospitals) for a baby box to be at an emergency medical station. What better place to have a baby box than at an emergency medical station? So we changed that law; but it was because of those two girls (Boone and Arbuckle) that I became the author of that bill.”
Frye then introduced Monica Kelsey, who is the force behind the creation of Safe Haven Baby Boxes.
“I just read an article yesterday that said that Indiana is the number one capital of the world for baby boxes,” Kelsey said. “This is box number 115 in the nation, and the 87th in the State of Indiana. The success lies when I tell you what was happening six years ago versus what is happening today. Prior to the first baby box being installed at my fire house — I’m a former firefighter and medic — we put the very first baby box in Woodburn, Indiana back in April of 2016. Prior to that baby box going in, we were finding two to three dead babies in our state every year. The State of Indiana — this is on our watch — two to three babies were being found in dumpsters and trash cans every single year.
“We launched that baby box in April of 2016,” Kelsey continued, “And we haven’t found a dead baby since. And I’ll tell you we have had a record number of babies in our boxes, and it never gets old when we get a call that a beautiful baby has been placed in one of our boxes.”
With that, Kelsey told that audience that she had a very special treat for everyone.
“Back in October of 2020 — I was actually in bed — and my phone rings,” Kelsey said. “The fire chiefs call us when they get a baby, usually within a couple of hours. I got a call from the fire chief of Decatur Township. He said that his guys had just called and they had a baby in their box. My two questions: ‘is it a boy or a girl? And is he healthy?’ They said it’s a little boy, and he’s perfect.”
With that, Kelsey shared the day’s most emotional moment.
“I’d like to introduce you guys to that little boy today. His name is Samuel, and he’s here with his parents, Kimberly and Nicholas.”
Bringing the significance of the moment even closer to home is that Samuel’s mother is a Switzerland County native, Kimberly (Self) Barkman, who now lives near Indianapolis.
“We’re so thankful that we received that call,” Kimberly said. “We’re the blessed ones.”
Kelsey then shared about her past and the reason that she is so passionate about baby boxes.
“I have to take you back to August of 1972, when a 17 year old girl was brutally attacked and raped and left alongside of the road,” Kelsey shared. “This of course is when abortion was illegal in our country even in the cases of rape and incest — I’m not here to debate that, I’m just stating the facts. That 17 year old girl was strong enough to press charges against the man who raped her. He was arrested and he was charged. If that wasn’t the worst of it, when her life was finally getting back to normal, she finds out she was pregnant. She was hidden for the rest of the pregnancy, and she gave birth in April of 1973, and abandoned her child two hours after that child was born, and that child was me.
“So I stand on the front lines of this movement,” Kelsey continued, “Assuring that every mother has a safe option like Samuel’s mother did. To make sure that they are safe and protected legally and anonymously. My mother did not have that back in 1973. She dropped me at a hospital where she knew someone would take care of me; and these boxes are at locations where we know that these babies will be taken care of. Today, I’m walking along side these parents that my birth mom did not have back in the day.”
Also speaking to the crowd was Grant Dean, current President of the County Commissioners; Nadine Swift, director of Switzerland County Emergency Response; and Boone and Arbuckle, who through their organization Madison Mission helped spearhead the fundraising and other aspects of bringing the baby box here.
The crowd then moved outside, where local pastors Chris Clemons of Brushy Fork Baptist Church and Shawn McMullen of the Vevay Church of Christ each prayed over the baby box and blessed it; and following that Kelsey turned the key that officially activated the box for us.