NOBLE COUNTY — Raising a baby is difficult, but Life and Family Services is here to help.

Beds and Britches, Etc., B.A.B.E., stores in Ligonier and Kendallville help provide educational tools while helping prospective parents get the items they need to help raise a baby.

The Ligonier store is inside Stone’s Hill Community Church and is open Wednesdays from 4-8 p.m. In Kendallville, the hours of operation at the store at 201 S. Park Ave. are Mondays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

As of right now, the one day in Ligonier seems to serve the community well, according to Development Coordinator Deanna Rodenbeck, but if the need arises, more days can be added to the schedule.

“We have tried different times of the day, but people were just not coming,” Rodenbeck said. “What we found with most of our clients is that they are a one-car household. They will come once their spouse is done with work. That is why we stuck with the 4-8 p.m. time period.”

The unique part about the services LFS provides is that there are no income requirements. People of any income bracket can come to LFS for help.

It offers a wide-array of services, one of those being providing medical-grade pregnancy tests.

“We cannot confirm or deny what they have read when it comes to the result,” Life and Family Services Executive Director Debbie Derby said. “They determine if it’s positive or negative, and we encourage them to follow up with their doctor.”

Once the test is complete, the employees also are there to talk about what the next steps are. There are doctors that work with LFS to help the parents that go there. The LFS employees will help them make connections with the doctors before they even leave the building, if the parents are up to it.

Derby said that oftentimes, if people don’t call the doctor before they leave that those connections are sometimes not made.

“We partner with 42 other organizations and physicians here in Noble County. They distribute our B.A.B.E vouchers,” Derby said.

The voucher program is where the B.A.B.E. store comes into play. Parents of children 0-3 can take educational courses or go to different events to earn vouchers to use at the stores. Both locations offer classes and workshops that will earn them vouchers.

Other ways people can earn vouchers are by going to prenatal appointments, visiting the Parkview Noble birth planner for classes and more. If people are not able to physically go to the classes, links to videos can sometimes be texted to people so they can watch from home.

Most of the clients that participate in the B.A.B.E. program are low-income people, but some are what Derby calls “working-class poor,” where they are working but they are having trouble making ends meet.

At the stores, there are diapers, wipes, clothes, blankets, car seats, strollers and more, all ranging from one or more vouchers. It is dependent on the item. There is also a catalogue of different items that can be ordered if what the person wants is out of stock.

People who receive services in Noble County can reap the benefits of the B.A.B.E. store. So they don’t necessarily need to live in Noble County to be able to access its services. For example, if a person lives in DeKalb County, but sees a doctor in Noble County, they are eligible to use these services.

The items available in the stores are mostly things that have been donated. People who use this service will also sometimes give back the items they received that they don’t need anymore.

“We’re not here to give them everything,” Derby said. “We are just here to supplement things. We are here to help them out, but we are not here to supply families with everything.”

Approximately 350 people used the services at both locations last year, according to Derby. In Ligonier, there are about 6-12 people a week that go to the store.

“We want to encourage that education at a very young age,” Rodenbeck said. “If her coming to us for even a short period of time encourages her to go to her library program every week, that’s more education for our client.”

There are mom groups and dad groups that people can become involved with as well. The next mom’s group will take place at the splash pad in Ligonier located in Kenney Park Tuesday from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The men would need to contact LFS to set up a meeting with the Dad2Dad group sessions.

“A lot of times, our clients come in not necessarily for the education. They come in because they need someone to talk to,” Derby said. “It’s sometimes about talking to someone and guiding them on where they need to be.”

They said that clients will come back and tell them how lucky they were to have this service available to them.

“I think the most important thing we do is establish relationships with our clients because so many of them still come back,” Derby said. “I think it’s just knowing that we are here and we listen to them and we help them. They know we are not just being nice to them, but we care about them.”

Jacienda Walter, of Kendallville, has been a client of LFS since she learned she was pregnant with her son Riley. He’s 7 years old now. She also has a 10-week-old daughter named Skye.

“I appreciate Life and Family Services a lot,” Walter said. “They’ve helped me get the bigger items that I needed for my child.”

She watched the educational video in order to get her vouchers. If she had another child, she said that she would go back to get help again.

“It really is great for first-time moms,” Walter said. “I’m not a first-time mom, but they helped me a lot the first time with my son.”

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