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Mothers And Babies – Sylvia Keller Works to Help Them All


It’s a circumstance many women in our community can’t imagine – being young, unmarried, pregnant, poor, shunned by family and friends, and with absolutely no one to turn to for help and guidance. Regrettably, this situation occurs many times in our community. One of the choices available to young women in this sad circum-stance is to accept the help offered by Save the Children House of Refuge in Fayetteville. They provide a refuge for the young mother to complete her pregnancy and bring a new baby into the world. She may choose to rear her baby herself or she may choose to give her baby up for adoption. A tall, slender woman with kind brown eyes, Sylvia Keller moves about the House of Refuge office with cool disregard for the almost con-stantly ringing telephone. She is the founder and president of the organization, now a 501(c) (3) non-profit entity, structured for eligibility to appeal for grants and to ben-efit from the contributions made to it by civic and religious groups, as well as some generous individual benefactors. Her daugh-ter, Kimberly Keller Robinson, is the Executive Director.You would be correct to guess that Sylvia Keller is unabash-edly pro-life. She is a person of deep faith; in fact, she is the pastor of the Fayetteville Free Will Holiness Church. But she is also very reasonable in discussing her beliefs and her motivations for feeling as she does – that babies are meant to be born.“It’s not even my religious convictions that are the basis for my belief that abortion is wrong,” she says. “I grew up on a farm, and my mother had nine children. My aunt had ten! And then I mar-ried a man who was from a large family. I just know the joy that children are, and from the time and place I come from, there is just no other option than to bring a baby into the world.”The Save the Babies House of Refuge, Inc. has become her raison d’etre. The inspiration came to her early one morning years ago as she lay suffering from a feverish illness. She believes it was di-vine intervention that revealed to her the very house that currently houses the organization, and that she heard God admonish her to do what she could to help young mothers and save children.She smiles at the memory. “And I was even made well by that visit,” she says. “From that instant on, no more fever, I was well.” The young women who choose to accept the help Keller and her organization offer often are very young indeed; as young as 13 in one case. Most are lo-cal, but some come from other cities and one was from another nation. They are of diverse races, and from many different religious backgrounds. Houseparents live in the home setting with the expectant mothers, 24 hours a day. The expectant moms are offered assistance in getting their education underway again, be it high school or col-lege classes, and they receive assistance in getting the pre-natal care that will help assure a healthy baby. They get guidance on life skills – simple but necessary tasks, like budgeting, nutrition, etc. They get information on adoption. They get help in finding a home for themselves and their baby should they choose to bring up the baby alone.Does it ever trouble Keller that sending a new-born baby out with its single mother isn’t the ideal nuclear family that she grew up in and in which she raised her own two daughters?“Yes,” she says. “I’ll be honest with you, I do worry about that. But we try to provide those single mothers with the support they’ll need to start life over again, even with a new baby, and make better choices for themselves and that baby.”She also marvels at how the arrival of a baby can bring a fam-ily back together. Some parents who have been disappointed in a daughter’s decision to have an unplanned baby are much more in-clined to help when they’ve actually seen the grandchild.“Babies can change the story. Few people can resist that sweet meeting,” she says, “and they hold and smell that little newborn. The fragrance of a newborn baby is something everybody ought to experience.”Recently, the 100th baby joined the ranks of those born to a resi-dent of the Save the Babies House of Refuge. Photographs of many of those babies adorn the waiting room of the administration build-ing. Glancing at them fondly, Sylvia Keller says, “Those are our family.”A 23-year-old woman, Khalilah, who turned to the organiza-tion about four years ago, agrees that the “graduates” of the home are indeed like family. Now a married mother of a little boy, Khalilah works at the maternity home, and feels that her experience as a resi-dent helps her guide and counsel the young women who currently live there.“They can’t say to me, ‘You don’t know what I’m going through’,” she says. “Because I do know. I went from being a rebel to going back to school, finishing up high school, getting a diploma. Now I’m going to FTCC to earn an associate degree as a paralegal.”She pauses. “I don’t know what I would have done without this help. I just don’t know.”