AudioGirl Ministries held a dedication for the new Safe Haven Baby Box on Sunday, July 23, at Fire Station 1.
Sylvia Aimerito and Lori Rae Martin, the founders of AudioGirl Ministries, in conjunction with Fire Chief Jeremey Criner, Pastor Tim Estes of New Life Church and State Representative Delia Haak (R-17) have worked for a year to bring the baby box to Siloam Springs.
The baby box is installed at Fire Station 1 which contains a sensor in the box that alerts fire station personnel when a baby is placed inside the box.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes are safety devices provided under the Safe Haven Law which legally allows a parent in crisis to safely, securely and anonymously surrender their child if they are unable to care for them, according to shbb.org.
Aimerito emceed the event which was attended by members of the city board, Mayor Judy Nation, State Senator Tyler Dees (R-35), State Representative Robin Lundstrum (R-18) and Randy Torres, a candidate for House District 17.
She began by describing the events that led to the baby box. Aimerito and Martin presented it in 2021 to the Siloam Springs Republican Women's group and were told that they liked the idea and they would pray about it and see what happens.
A year later Haak brought the matter up to Caroline Geer, the president of the Republican Women, who told Haak to reach out to Aimerito and Martin.
"And so our seed became a sprout," Aimerito said. "And today it's bearing fruit."
When it was Haak's turn to speak she said the project is so indicative so Siloam Springs and Western Benton County. Haak also said this is the place for someone in a desperate situation to surrender a life and it will be loved and taken care of.
"We're so grateful to have this place that is all about a life that we want to preserve and protect," Haak said. "Government can do only certain things. It's really up to the people to make those good things happen."
Haak said it took everyone from the baby box team involved from fundraising to the fire chief who agreed to house the box in Fire Station 1. Nation said the ceremony is not only celebrating the physical box but also the collaboration that made it possible.
"The innovative initiative stands as a symbol of the collective commitment and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society," Nation said. "With the baby box installed the exterior wall of our fire department, we affirm our commitment to providing a safe and secure space for mothers in distress to surrender their newborns."
Criner said he was honored to be the fire chief and that the glory for the box goes to God. He said this is a testament of what to be thankful for and to also thank the people involved.
"As the fire chief, I often say that our job is to go out there and save lives and property," Criner said. "And most people think of that as in a fire truck at the scene of a fire or out on a car wreck or in an ambulance taking somebody to the hospital. But in this case, the most vulnerable in our community are provided an opportunity for life that we have very little part of."
Tolliver then presented the kit for the baby boxes to Criner and the fire department which contained airways, nasal cannulas, diapers, wipes, pacifiers and a car seat.
Aimerito said the nation has 156 boxes and 18 of those are in Arkansas.
Mariah Betts, the development coordinator for Safe Haven Baby Boxes, spoke about her involvement with Safe Haven Baby Boxes and how they have saved 33 babies in the boxes and helped over 130 parents surrender their babies.
"Thank you to the Siloam Springs Fire Department for giving families another option to safely surrender their newborns," Betts said.
Aimerito then introduced her pastor, Father Joshua Passo from Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Springdale, who prayed over the box, thanking God for blessing the endeavors of Audio Girl Ministries to bring the box in.
Following the blessing, Aimerito thanked everyone for coming out to celebrate the baby box.
"This box is now available for women in this community and beyond," Aimerito said. "This box offers no shame, no blame and no names. Thank you all for being here today."