Hand-In-Hand

Faith-based organization Associated Churches of Fort Wayne & Allen County is bringing the community together and serving those in need.
Apr 4, 2022
Nichole Thomas
Jeffrey Crane

The footprint of Associated Churches is growing on East Wayne Street, and the agency is looking forward to crafting more ways to care for new mothers and their babies.

Associated Churches, located at 602 E. Wayne St., has been around for 78 years serving the community of Fort Wayne. One of the agency’s oldest ministries, A Baby’s Closet (ABC), needed a new building after the former church that housed it for decades was sold. A Baby’s Closet helps low-income families and those experiencing hardships by providing essential baby items to safely and adequately care for their children through well-baby check-ups and educational classes.

“As God would have it, a building was vacant right across the street from Associated Churches,” says Roger Reece, executive director. “It’s nice because we’re located on one side of the street and ABC is on the other.”

ABC, now located at 621 E. Wayne St., has thrived. Parent participants receive coupons for learning about nutrition and parenting, keeping prenatal and well-child appointments, childbirth classes and keeping their children’s immunizations up-to-date. Items they can earn include diapers, ointment, crib bedding, baby toiletries, toys, car seats and more. 

Associated Churches still saw obstacles faced by new mothers and their children that weren’t being addressed. That’s where the Wolf Mission House comes in. Gifted by Paul and Carolyn Wolf, located at 624 E. Wayne St., Wolf Mission House offers specialized programs for those in need, including the Journey Beside Mothers program; a peer-to-peer ministry that matches new moms with qualified mentors to walk alongside them in their motherhood journey. 

“To me, Journey Beside Mothers really fills the sweet spot of helping that mom and young family along the way,” says Reece. “It bridges the gap between other services available to these mothers and babies.” 

Those other community services include Healthier Moms and Babies. As a former employee of Healthier Moms and Babies, Julie Reece now serves as the director of Journey Beside Mothers.

“From Julie’s own experience, we know there is only so much that can be done with health and wellness. Journey Beside Mothers tries to bring more support that goes beyond that,” Roger says. 

There are currently 15 pairs of mentors and mentees, including Jestina Flores and her baby son, Atticus. Introduced to Journey Beside Mothers from her involvement with A Baby’s Closet, Flores was asked if she’d consider a mentor mom to walk beside her in her journey. Whether virtual, in-person or drop-in, Reece says there are many ways for moms to take advantage of the programming and education at the Wolf Mission House, which include mom groups and children’s play groups.

But the new moms aren’t the only ones who learn. The mentors learn, too, as they receive monthly training on a variety of topics and are taught to be listeners. 

“We train our mentors to be listeners,” stresses Roger. “They are not there to judge; just to walk alongside the mother and serve.”

Mentor moms are always needed. Journey Beside Mothers receives its mentors in various ways, whether from the faith community or applications submitted via social media. The program is always in need of women who have a heart to give back and make things better.

“We see a lot of lifelong relationships being built from this program,” says Roger. “We have mentors who are supporting moms in school. Sometimes you need another mom’s reassurance that you’re doing a good job or simply a, ‘It’s going to be OK.’” 

Associated Churches: A Baby's Closet & Journey Beside Mothers

Owner(s): Leader: Roger Reece

Address: 621 E. Wayne St., Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802

Phone: (260) 422-3528

Website: associatedchurches.org

Email: roger@associatedchurches.org

Years in Business: 78

Products & Services: Basic needs and family services

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