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Albany Pastor calls for community-wide change following murder of newborn girl

Pastor Moe announces a memorial for Harper and plans to increase education for young parents in crisis
Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 2:21 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2021 at 7:24 PM CST
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ALBANY, Wis. (WMTV) - In the wake of the gruesome death of a 5-day-old girl in Albany, many in the community are left wondering where to go from here.

Pastor Tom Moe at Albany United Methodist Church says the infant deserves to be remembered as more than by her fate, saying real change could come from this tragedy. “What we’re wanting to do is not just leave it with this awful moment,” says Pastor Moe.

Albany United Methodist is partnering up with the two other churches in town to form a memorial for the baby, named Harper. Their goal is to create a space where residents can grieve and remember Harper, but also open up a dialogue about what they can do to make sure something like this never happens again.

“There’s extreme anger, there’s extreme hurt, there’s confusion, there’s a lot of just raw feelings about what has happened. And so we do need a place of healing,” says Pastor Moe.

A location for this memorial is still being determined, but they do plan to host a special service for community members when it’s ready. “We’re inviting people to bring teddy bears and leave a message on a teddy bear, or just bring flowers. So we can have in our community one place where we can deal with our feelings and maybe even stop and talk to each other,” says Pastor Moe.

They’re also hoping people can bring something that will support future parents who are going through a difficult time. “Bring a package of disposable diapers for newborns. Which is your way for reaching out to future moms, families that are struggling with ‘what do I do? I can’t face being a parent right now.’ That they can understand there’s a community that’s there to support you,” says Pastor Moe.

The diapers will be taken to area food pantries for families to pick-up as needed.

The churches in Albany are also in talks with Green County Social Services and local schools. They want to increase awareness of Wisconsin’s Safe Haven Law among the community’s youth.

“Better communicate that in middle schools, in high schools the Safe Haven Laws are very well publicized so that there’s going to be no misunderstandings of what to do when you hit these panic moments,” says Pastor Moe.

The law allows a parent can leave an unharmed newborn, under 3 days old, with medical or emergency personnel, without consequences. “If you’re in a time of confusion, if you’re in a time when you don’t know what to do, we have these places and they’re in every community available to you and these are no judgement zones,” says Pastor Moe.

They hope these efforts can extend beyond Green County and be implemented in schools across the state. “We’re opening an invitation for all Wisconsin communities to take a serious look at our means to provide care for young kids or young moms in these situations,” says Pastor Moe.

Albany United Methodist Church has also reached out to Harper’s family, offering to host a funeral for her at no charge. “We’re trying to reach out to the extended family and the immediate family to let them know that we’re here to be of support to them,” says Pastor Moe.

This is a policy the church has in place for any infant death, something very personal for Pastor Moe.

“I can share with you my own passion in this, because one of the first babies I ever held was my son after he was born and died. So I have a huge, huge passion that I’m bringing into this personally as well,” says Pastor Moe.

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