Associated Churches of Fort Wayne & Allan County
A Baby’s Closet provides mothers with access to a wide range of necessities to help them care for their children, including cribs, car seats, diapers, and baby formula. What makes A Baby’s Closet unique is that the mothers purchase their items with vouchers obtained by keeping their pre- and post-natal care appointments.
Back in the late 90s, Fort Wayne had one of the highest infant mortality rates in Indiana. It was clear to the staff at Associated Churches that certain areas of the city struggled with health equality and they wanted to help address that.
Realizing that they were not experts in the field of healthcare, but that they did have a great deal of experience in working with the low-income population of Fort Wayne, they forged a partnership with another local agency called Healthier Moms and Babies. That agency goes into the mother’s home to carry out the actual pre- and post-natal care visits and to help coach the mothers through their pregnancy and the first months of their new babies lives. To help incentivize the mothers to keep those appointments, at the end of each visit they hand out vouchers from Associated Churches that can be spent at A Baby’s Closet for items to keep their baby healthy and safe.
According to Roger Reece, Executive Director of Associated Churches, one of their guiding principles as an agency is that in order to be successful they must lead with humility, and remember that the people they are serving are fully fledged human beings who have experienced struggles and hardships that their staff will never be able to fully identify with. So regardless of the program, they try to approach each client and each situation with mercy and compassion and to maintain a deep and abiding sense of humility.
A Baby’s Closet serves more than 600 women a year. And the partnership involved provides an excellent example of how the faith community and health care agencies can work together to address problems in our neighborhoods. Each year, the women in the A Baby’s Closet program who have been identified as needing an extra touch of love are also served through Associated Churches‘ Christmas Outreach. In a collaborative effort with the Fort Wayne Police Department, staff members, including the Executive Director, visit families in their homes to distribute food and gifts, and occasionally find themselves invited to sit down for a meal. Roger sees it as a wonderful opportunity for senior management such as himself to connect directly with the families they serve – and in important reminder of why we are called to serve.