The Caldwell Corps becomes a Baby Haven
Dedicated leaders design a program to meet community needs.
Today, The Salvation Army in Caldwell, Idaho maintains a thriving “Baby Haven” ministry to the community—an outreach that developed over the years due to the dedication of corps leadership, including Aurelio and Ligia Ambriz, who came to Caldwell in 2004 as lay leaders. The Ambrizes opened their eyes to the needs of their new community, had a vision for serving their neighbors, and developed practical plans—built upon existing Army programs and the hard work of previous leaders—to make that vision a reality. Currently, A/Captains Ambriz are corps officers in Caldwell.
The Baby Haven program—known throughout the area—features the Baby Boutique, where women can “shop” (using earned points) for useful items all acquired through donations, and experience educational workshops, devotionals, refreshments and crafts. Through their involvement in the program, families have begun attending Sunday worship and other Army activities and programs.
Tracing the development of this successful endeavor may encourage others to recognize the particular need in their own community and to think and plan creatively and practically to address it, while using the strengths of tried and true Salvation Army programs.
In 2004, Aurelio and Ligia Ambriz came to The Salvation Army’s Caldwell Corps as director of Latino ministries and youth ministry director, respectively, joining then corps officers Captains Mario and Claudia Ruiz. Ligia soon began to envision a Women’s Ministries outreach that would meet the needs—spiritual and practical—of Hispanic women with small children. She saw the need all around her and set out to meet it, developing a Women’s Ministries outreach focus.
Passion, vision and growth
Ambriz and Captain Claudia Ruiz began holding a Friday morning bi-lingual “Coffee Talk” fellowship once a month at the corps for the wives of migrant workers and other interested women. They quickly recognized that these women needed help acquiring baby supplies and healthcare for their families, and they decided to create an atmosphere for sharing information on family issues. Ruiz outlined the women’s café’s two objectives: first, to present Christ as savior in a social setting, where the women visit before possibly attending church; second, to initiate discussions on issues that interest women, including relationships with children, husband, friends, etc. Sharing coffee and desserts encouraged fellowship.
Over the years, Ambriz’s passion to share Christ’s love with these women grew. After investigating and praying for ideas on a program for young mothers, she encountered The Salvation Army’s Baby Song program. She networked with area healthcare agencies to develop a system of obtaining donations of products and clothing as well as health checkups—the immediate goal was to teach and mentor these women to become better caregivers to their young children.
In the fall of 2007, the Caldwell Corps launched the Baby Haven program. A small Sunday school room was set up as a “baby boutique” offering donated items for “sale,” including diapers, clothing, hygiene items, baby equipment and toys. The store also provided the chance for ministry, and the Ambrizes took every opportunity as the women waited their turn to shop. Ligia used the “waiting room” time for educational workshops on nutrition, parenting skills and budgeting, while Aurelio held classes for the men who came with their wives—classes such as “Being a Present Dad.” They also offered Bible-based devotionals, and provided refreshments and crafts.
Over a two-year period, the Baby Haven program became well known in the community, with more and more families in need taking advantage of the service. As they continued to pray and to get the word out, the Ambrizes were able to recruit childcare workers and volunteers.
The program today is an educational, incentive program for English and Spanish speaking women with limited income who are either pregnant or have children under the age of 2. Mothers enrolled in the program earn points by attending classes on nutrition, health, budgeting and parenting skills, and by volunteering to help with refreshments, set up and clean up and registration during the distribution time. They can then redeem the points for items from the boutique—cribs, baby equipment, toys, maternity clothes, etc. This system allows the women to “give back” for what they have received and builds their sense of responsibility for maintaining the well being of their children.
Growing relationships—and programs
As women came back week after week, relationships grew. Ambriz had hoped this would happen, and that she could then extend invitations to other corps functions—the Mother/Daughter Teas, Saturday Coffee Talk fellowship, Sunday worship and weekly Bible studies. Since the Baby Haven program began, the Ambrizes have held special events, such as a Valentine Celebration for couples that focused on keeping romance alive in marriage and Bible studies aimed at teaching the men to be better husbands. Currently, Captain Aurelio Ambriz holds a men’s breakfast once a month on a Saturday.
News of the program has spread throughout the area. For the second year, local TV station Channel 6 is sponsoring a Community Baby Shower in July 2009 at all Albertsons stores in Idaho’s Treasure Valley County. Caldwell’s Baby Haven is one of three programs to benefit from this fundraiser. In addition, it recently received $15,000 from the local United Way to help with costs from April 2009 – March 2010.
As a result of this two-year effort—which has been bathed in prayer and faithfulness—the Caldwell Corps is now seeing the fruit of their labor. Families are attending Sunday worship and Ambriz has launched an additional Spanish Women’s Ministries group that meets twice a month for ladies who have participated in the Baby Haven program as well as the Friday morning Coffee Talk fellowship. In the first month since starting this additional group, attendance has doubled from 8 to 16 women.
Major Betsy Kyle, Cascade divisional women’s ministries secretary, states: “We praise God for the vision of our corps officers who, with much prayer and faithfulness, put ‘feet’ to their visions, all for the purpose of reaching new women in their community for Christ. Through this prayer and faithfulness we see that such fruit takes time to grow. W.O.W. [Win One Woman]—What an inspiring story!”