Three students from McClelland Middle School are asking for the community’s help, to make a newborn's life a little easier.
Maggie Castelli, Josh Cotter, and Austin Decker are on the school’s Destination Imagination (DI) team. They've chosen to raise awareness of the Safe Haven Program and supply local fire stations with care packages in preparation for a potential arrival.
The Safe Haven Program allows parents to drop a newborn baby, up to three days old, off at a fire station or hospital. Custody of the baby then goes through a series of hand-offs until ultimately the Department of Social Services picks the child up at the hospital.
The first ever use of the Safe Haven Program in Pueblo occurred this past Christmas Eve. That night, Castelli's father was about to sit down to dinner when he was called to the hospital to care for a baby’s mother.
When he came home he told his daughter Maggie and her friend Austin about what had happened. "I never expected that kind of thing because I had always been safe in my own house and I never thought there were people who were not as fortunate as me," says Castelli.
A few days later, Castelli and Decker told their teammate Cotter about what had happened. He too was shocked. "Everybody talks about how their life is so great and stuff, but they don't really think about how other people are," says Decker. The story was the motivation they needed.
The three were looking for a project to use for their DI competition, and decided they wanted to help newborns who ended up going through the Safe Haven process. What they didn't know at the time was, fire stations really weren't equipped with many resources for dealing with these newborns, and the student's project would be a welcome help.
They met with Pueblo Fire Fighters IAFF Local #3 President, Chad Thomas. Thomas heard their proposal and was impressed. "I thought it was great that these kids wanted to do something like that. I mean, it's commendable," says Thomas. He also wondered, what would make these children do something like that at such a young age?
Part of the answer is found in the history of the school they attend.
In the early 1900s McClelland Middle School was an orphanage. Pictures adorn the walls of the school reminding those that work, attend, and visit there of its rich past in helping children. Accounts from former residents at the orphanage claim it was a happy place to be, free of the negative connotations many orphanages have.
Today, Maggie, Josh and Austin help fill those halls with laughter again. Their carefree laughter and playing remind those that see them, they are still children even if their ideas are big. And their big idea is starting to take off.
It was a little rocky at the beginning, but the trio started pulling things together. "At first we were like, is this going to work or is this going to happen," says Cotter. As of Monday, the community can drop off new baby supplies at any fire station in Pueblo. "It seems just to be getting bigger and bigger, we didn't expect it to get as large as it's gotten," says Castelli.
Part of their marketing scheme to generate interest and awareness in the Safe Haven Program is a poem they wrote, and display on a poster above the drop off box inside the school's lobby. "If you give a baby a blanket, he's going to ask for a bottle / When he is finished with his bottle, he will probably ask for a pacifier / When he has his pacifier, he will want to hear a story / After he hears a story, he will want to take a nap / If you give a baby safety, you give a baby good memories."
The students will take the results of their community service project to a local competition in March. If they win at the local level, they will get to compete at the state level in Denver a few weeks later. A win at the state level would advance them to the national finals in Tennessee later this year.
If you're interested in donating to this project, you can drop off new blankets, pacifiers, stuffed animals, and memory books to any Pueblo Fire Department station or at McClelland M.S. itself. Fire stations will accept donations until February 28. The students’ goal is to put at least one Safe Haven Care Package in all ten Pueblo fire stations.