AudioGirl Ministries to establish Safe Haven Baby Box

Photo submitted AudioGirl Lori Rae Martin (left), poses with State Representative Delia Haak (R-17); Fire Chief Jeremey Criner; New Life Church Pastor Tim Estes and fellow AudioGirl Sylvia Aimerito at Fire Station 1 in conjunction with the announcement of Siloam Springs' first Safe Haven Baby Box. The Safe Haven Baby Box allows mothers in crisis to leave their infants in a safe environment. The baby box alerts authorities that a baby has been placed inside and will move to safely secure the child.

AudioGirl Ministries is working to bring a Safe Haven Baby Box to Siloam Springs.

A Safe Haven Baby Box is a loving alternative to baby abandonment, which gives mothers in crisis a safe place to surrender their baby, said Sylvia Aimerito, one of the AudioGirls.

The baby box contains a bassinet to place the baby in, Aimerito said. Once the mother closes the box it locks and when the bassinet moves it sets off an alarm to the location to alert public rescue personnel to come and get the baby, Aimerito said.

"The Safe Haven Baby Box provides an additional layer of anonymity to protect the mother," Aimerito said.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes have been installed since 2016, according to Aimerito said she got involved with them when she and her sister Lori Rae Martin were doing public service announcements for the boxes in California.

After moving to Arkansas, Aimerito approached the Siloam Springs Republican Women, she said. The group was intrigued by the idea.

A year later State Representative Delia Haak (R-17) approached Republican Women President Caroline Geer, who told Haak about the AudioGirls project, Aimerito said. Haak met with Aimerito and Martin and began working on the project.

Not long after, Fire Chief Jeremey Criner and Tim Estes, pastor of New Life Church, were brought aboard to help with the baby box.

"They are the core team of the Baby Box along with citizens," Aimerito said.

Moving forward

Recently, Aimerito and Martin presented the baby box program to the Siloam Springs Republican Women and raised $1,700 during the meeting, Martin said.

The AudioGirls plan to purchase the box when they have reached their fundraising goal of $11,000, Aimerito said. The box itself costs $11,000 and additional funds will be raised for PR and marketing, Martin said.

AudioGirl Ministries is grateful to be a part of this project and working with Criner, Estes and Haak, Aimerito said. Estes sees the value in the baby box for the community.

"The provision of a Safe Haven Baby Box is tantamount to a community opening wide its loving arms so as to cradle and protect an innocent baby who may otherwise be in harm's way," Estes said.

Criner said when the Arkansas Safe Haven law was amended a few years earlier to add fire stations to a list of facilities where a baby could be surrendered anonymously, he began looking into how this would impact the fire department and what needed to be done to prepare the department for this scenario.

"With the change in state law, we knew that there was a potential that the fire department would be in a position to receive a surrendered child," Criner said. "After visiting with Safe Haven Baby Box and their staff, we knew this would be a viable option for our department."

Criner said the box will be mounted at Fire Station 1 with drop off access from the exterior. When the box is utilized access to the box will only be available from the inside of the building, Criner said. At the same time an alarm will be transmitted to the dispatch center where they will notify fire department staff, Criner said.

The baby box is not the only pro-life measure going on in Siloam Springs. On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Siloam Springs city board voted on Resolution 15-23 concerning the city declaring that it is a pro-life city, according to a staff report prepared by City Administrator Phillip Patterson on Feb. 14.

At press time the outcome of the outcome for the resolution has not been decided.

Beyond Siloam Springs

Aimerito and Martin see the baby box as not only helping mothers in Siloam Springs, but also beyond the city.

"What we have learned is that a woman in crisis will go further away from her hometown so she will not be recognized," Aimerito said. "Our box will reach out to communities in Arkansas as well as Oklahoma so women considering child abandonment will know where to go."

The baby box is taking up most of the time for AudioGirl Ministries, Aimerito said. Fundraising is the top priority with publicity being an immediate second, Martin said.

AudioGirl Ministries will be teaming up with NWA Respect Life and Ozark Respect Life to do a billboard campaign in Arkansas and Oklahoma, Aimerito said.

"If we can save one baby's life it is worth it," Martin said.