COOLSPRING TOWNSHIP — A mother giving up her newborn can now place the baby in a warm, secure environment and walk away confident that within minutes that baby will be in good hands.
A Safe Haven Baby Box has been installed at the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department at 400 North and Johnson Road, just outside Michigan City.
The box, a bit larger than a microwave oven, was installed in the brick wall of the fire station near Michigan City.
After opening the lid on the outside, the baby can be placed on a foam mattress and the lid when closed automatically locks.
The inside of the box is kept between 95 to 101 degrees.
A 911 dispatcher alerted by a silent alarm will notify emergency responders who within minutes will take the baby out of the box from inside the fire station and take it to the hospital.
“While we hope this baby box never gets used, we can sleep well knowing the box is there to use,” said Coolspring Township Fire Chief Mick Pawlik.
It’s just the second Safe Haven Baby Box in the nation installed, with the first being Tuesday, also in Indiana, at the fire station in Woodburn near Fort Wayne.
The creator is Monica Kelsey, a firefighter and medic in Woodburn, who saw a similar box for abandoned babies at a church in South Africa in 2013 and thought it something needed back home.
The Michigan City area along with Indianapolis and the Gary/Hammond region are among the “strategic seven” areas in the state targeted to receive the first batch of boxes.
“When we started looking at the statistics of where abandoned babies were being dumped in our country, this one stood out. This is a perfect location for the surrounding counties,” Kelsey said.
Seven babies over the past 15 years within a 5 mile radius of the Coolspring Township fire station have been abandoned, she said.
Kelsey said she was abandoned by her birth mother after she was raped near Woodburn in the early 1970s. She made reference to the book of Genesis in the Bible for believing her role in this effort is no coincidence.
“I think Christ had my name under his Scripture the entire time,” she said.
On the lid of the box is a hotline number of 1-866-99Baby1 for mothers about to abandon their baby to immediately reach a counselor offering alternatives.
The Knights of Columbus paid the $1,500 cost of the box while Pawlik, who’s a contractor, did the installation.
LaPorte County Police Capt. Mike Kellems said it’s legal in Indiana for a mother to leave a baby at places like a hospital and fire station within 30 days after birth.
Sometimes, though, babies even left at a hospital are in a cardboard box outside and go unnoticed for prolonged periods, which can be tragic.
The footprint on the Safe Haven logo is from a baby girl who died from exposure when abandoned in December 2014 at Indianapolis.
“We named her Amelia Grace Hope. We wanted people to understand through this tragedy there was still hope,” Kelsey said.