In May 17 issue, Russell County News
By Kim Graham
Russell County News
The whirlwind of activity never stops at Angel House. With nineteen mouths to feed, diapers to change, clothes to wash and crying to sooth, there are never enough hands.
At the focus of this flurry, are several bundles of joy swaddled securely in their cozy, warm blankets.
Angel House, a part of the Galilean Children’s Home Born Free prison ministry, was birthed from a desire to provide a safe haven for the infants of imprisoned mothers while maintaining the bond between mother and child.
The goal of the program is to support the infant and mother bond through visitation and make it easier for the family to rejoin when the mother is released from prison.
Many of the children visit their mothers, who are incarcerated at Peewee Valley’s Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women, once each week.
‘We hope the children get a good start here,” said Hope Burt, Director of Angel House.
Since its humble beginning with one infant in 1991, Born Free ministry founded by Jerry and Sandy Tucker has provided a loving first home to greater than 600 newborns.
A 9,000 square foot two story residence built in 1995, Angel House can accommodate up to 50 children but the 24 children is the most they’ve had at one time.
Though the Apostolic Christian World Relief Mission donated the building materials and labor to build Angel House, the loving support of others through financial contributions, donated goods and services is primarily what keeps the organization afloat.
‘No one can fathom the wipes, diapers, bottle liners, food, Kleenex and other supplies used,” said volunteer Debbie Conner. “People should make a point to donate to Angel House.”
Conner, a Russell Springs resident, makes the trip into the heart of the Mennonite community once a week to volunteer her services at Angel House.
‘The babies are just so precious,” said Conner. “It’s me that’s so blessed by them.”
Most babies arrive at two days old and with no limit on the length of stay, many children have lived at Angel House as long as five years.
Angel House volunteers come from other states such as Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania (some from Kansas, Texas and Maryland) and from as far away as Manitoba, Canada.
The volunteer opportunities are well known among the Amish and Mennonite communities as well as those who receive the Galilean Home Shepherd, the home’s monthly newsletter.
‘I love babies,” said volunteer Rachel Bauman of Goshen, In. “It’s something I want to do.”
No stranger to volunteer work and missions, Russell County High School senior Lena Thompson of Russell Springs has visited several foreign countries but chose this year to share God’s love close to home.
“I’ve always done a lot of missions,” said Thompson. “It’s addictive to do the work of the Lord.”
She has volunteered at Angel House since February of this year spending weekends and spring break at the Galilean Home.
“I don’t live here but I have my own room and my own bed,” said Thompson.
Visiting volunteers are provided meals and housing at the Galilean Home’s Martha and Mary houses.
‘Even those that volunteer one day a week are wonderful,” said Burt. “It all helps.”
Burt says there is a lady who drives an hour and a half from the other side of Glasgow to volunteer at Angel House.
There are 10 regular paid staff members and three 8 hour shifts per day. Volunteers usually work the midnight shift.
One step into Angel House and you are welcomed with warm smiles and the bustle of the business of the day.
There’s a sense of lightness and ease present in the midst of all the cleaning, feeding and diaper changing.
Embracing children seems to come as naturally as breathing to the staff and volunteers.
“I just love them all,” said Conner. “The throw up and the diapers don’t even bother me.”
The part of the job they never seem prepared for is saying goodbye
There were a set of twins who recently went home to be with their family after living at Angel House for more than a year.
‘We were all crying,” said staff member Crystal Goode. “It breaks my heart a lot of times but I love it.”
Already Conner, who started volunteering once a week just two months ago, has experienced the pain of letting go.
“It’s really sad when they leave but you know it’s for the best that they go be with their mother,” said Conner.
These ladies’ and babies’ kinship is one established by love alone not by genetics.
“The memories you have with all the babies are special in their own way,” said Linda Lee, the home’s supervisor. “Their just like your own kids.”
The women carry the babies in their hearts and the children carry with them that first love with the many mothers of Angel House.
“I believe these babies will always know the love they had when they were here because it’s from God,” Lee said.
For more information contact Galilean Home Ministries at 606-787-5120 or find them online at their website galileanhome.org