The Starting Place Birth and Wellness Center

It had been a rainy week in Temple, Texas, leading up to the Grand Opening of the Starting Place Birth and Wellness Center. We watched our weather apps on our phones closely and hoped for the best while preparing for the worst. Do we purchase tents for the guests to take shelter in the event of a storm? Will it even rain at all? In the end, we took a few small preventative measures, but for the most part, we’d come this far, and rain or shine, we were going to celebrate this special occasion and make the most of it. Sitting on the corner of 3rd Street and Houston Ave, the completely gutted and remodeled call center building had become the manifestation of 15 years of birth and wellness experience in Haiti brought to families in Bell County, Texas. A dream come true.

As many of you know or may have read, The Starting Place began as a dream of Heartline midwives, Tara Livesay and Beth (KJ) Johnson. While investing in families in Haiti through the Heartline Maternity Center, they sought a way to expand their impact on maternal healthcare in a safe and replicable way. The result of their shared passion was The Starting Place Manual and curriculum. The Starting Place Manual is a step-by-step guide for building a maternal health program in low-resource settings. This how-to manual is a compilation of maternal health education guidelines, program structures, and medical protocols developed to employ the midwifery model of care holistically.

Over the proceeding two years of the course release, Tara and KJ imparted their experience and lessons on 27 maternal healthcare practitioners who have carried those lessons and the model all over the world in various applications.  

When it came time for the Livesay family to return to the United States after over 15 years of investing in families through direct ministry in Haiti, the first step was to turn the day-to-day operations over to the intended and rightful operators, the Haitian people. The question arose…”How do we continue to serve the underserved, care for the marginalized in our community and advance the mission and vision of Heartline as ministry directors based in the United States?” Coupled with their passion for maternal healthcare and ongoing investment as Directors of the Heartline Maternity Center, the idea of applying the Starting Place curriculum to a physical birth and wellness location in Bell County, Texas, was born. It was most likely working its way through Tara, and KJ’s minds all along as Bell County represents a prime opportunity to serve marginalized populations, persons of color, and shoulders some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in all of Texas. At the same time, Texas itself continues to hold a spot on the list of top 10 states in the US for infant and maternal mortality. A dismal honor and an excellent opportunity to launch The Starting Place!

The day had arrived, and rain or shine, The Starting Place was about to open its doors to the community. Members of the Heartline Team were present, as well as multiple friends and family members. Friends worked on set-up, food, last-minute clean-up, refreshing drinks and the fantastic charcuterie table full of meats, cheeses, and fruits (see pic to left!)

Joined by the Temple Chamber of Commerce and other community members, Tara, KJ, and Troy cut the ribbon making the opening official and taking the next step to investing families in Bell County, Texas, through the Heartline Maternity Center model of midwifery care. What an exciting moment! You can click on the button below to watch the ribbon-cutting.

Throughout the event, friends and neighbors toured the building and learned how the facility would benefit mothers and their babies as its sister location does in Haiti. Along with prenatal care, birth, and postpartum education, The Starting Place will eventually offer additional parenting-related resources. We estimate over 150 friends and neighbors joined us on this special evening.

Heartline friend Brittney Wardlaw delivered a wonderful message highlighting the vital role The Starting Place played in the community and the void it filled offering birthing services and education to families in Bell County. You can watch her message by clicking the link below.

In the end, the rain held off, and the weather was perfect. The kindness and welcome we received from old friends and new, and the Temple, Texas community was warmly felt, and we’re so very thankful to those who drove down to Temple to help The Starting Place Grand Open with our best foot forward. Thank you for making the Grand Opening the fantastic event it was – we can’t wait to celebrate our first birth expected this October 2021! Enjoy the images below and take a virtual tour of The Starting Place! 

To learn more about The Starting Place, click the button below to visit our website!

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