Lori Lewis and her husband Michael began their efforts in foster care in Florida in 1991. Two years later — with three children already in their care — they received a phone call about taking in another child. Only this time, it was a newborn.
The child was a product of the newly formed ‘Safe Haven for Newborns,’ a nonprofit organization that was created as a safety net for mothers and their newborns. Formed in 2001 in response to an increase in newborn abandonment, Nick and Gloria Silverio created the organization to reach expecting mothers before the crisis stage sets in.
“I got a call that said they had a baby for adoption and she was different,” Lewis said. “She was not a foster child. Her heart was beating so fast and so was mine. It was instantaneous love — she was mine forever.”
Following several miscarriages of her own, Lewis was excited to finally be able to name her own baby — a decision she didn’t take lightly.
“The firefighters at the station where she was dropped off called her Baby Hope because she was born on Father’s Day,” she said. “I always told myself that if I ever have a baby girl, I’m going to name her Gloria after my mother, so we arrived at Gloria Hope Lewis.”
In 2005, the Lewis family relocated to the west side of Daviess County, where they own and operate Camp Safe Haven and Earthbound Lodging. The campground features a plethora of outdoor activities ranging from swimming and volleyball to fishing and kayaking.
With foster care heavy on her heart, Lewis offers free campsites and lodging to foster families.
“We know the struggle of raising other people’s children,” she said. “We are a little piece of heaven tucked away in Owensboro that seeks to offer memories for the whole family. We also strive to educate the community on the Safe Haven laws for newborns and provide awareness.”
The Safe Haven program now spans all 50 states and some foreign countries. Their protocol allows whoever is in possession of an unharmed newborn — approximately seven days old or less — to leave them with someone at a designated Safe Haven. Safe havens generally include hospitals, 24-hour manned fire stations, emergency medical service stations and churches.
The process is completely anonymous with no questions asked, freeing the parents from fear of prosecution. Following the person-to-person drop-off, infants are taken to the hospital for a physical and then placed in foster care for 30 days before being placed for adoption via a private agency.
Lewis wants to see awareness spread locally with safe havens emerging all over town.
“We want to let the state of Kentucky know that hospitals, churches, fire stations and EMT services are all drop-offs and can take the course to get certified,” she said.
The organization also provides resources to expecting mothers that include housing, transportation, medical attention, counseling and more.
Lewis is also partnering with Matt and Amanda Royal on the ‘Glory to God’ (G2G) project, which provides thousands of free meals to the community on any given weekend. The Royals created the operation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which left several people unemployed.
From running a campground to training soon-to-be foster parents, Lewis relentless in her efforts to provide better lives for young people. In lieu of the pandemic, she’s also providing respite for foster parents that double as essential workers.
“We’ve met so many friends that have become family in this place,” she said. “This is the perfect healing ground for children. It allows them to experience nature while leaving the trauma and the drama behind.”
More information on Safe Haven can be found at www.asafehavenfornewborns.com or by calling 1-877-767-BABY (2229). Information on the campground can be found on Facebook by searching Camp Safe Haven/Earthbound Lodging.
“I never dreamed in a million years I would live in Kentucky, yet here we are,” she said. “We have a beautiful piece of property to live this life and share it with others.”