Truth, love and compassion… that’s what drives the couple behind Save the Storks, Joe and Ann Baker. I had an opportunity recently to interview Joe as he shared the story behind this highly successful, pro-life non-profit ministry. Here are some edited excerpts from our visit.
How was Save the Storks “born”? Where did it all begin?
Joe: It may sound a little strange, but my passion for the pro-life movement began while I was in 4th grade. I grew up in Philadelphia. My mother worked as the director of a pregnancy resource center for about 10 years. I would hear conversations at home and would help her with tasks like stuffing envelopes. But when I was in 4th grade my mom asked me to participate in the Walk-For Life fund raiser. I was reluctant until she told me that whoever raised the most money would receive a gift certificate for a really nice bike. I was hooked and motivated to win the bike. As I went door-to-door, in an effort to raise money, people would say they were “pro-choice” and couldn’t support my fund raising. This confused me at first. I thought “If these people are pro-choice, why wouldn’t they want to support women who choose to keep their babies?” Through this process I became more committed and more insightful in defending life. Then in high school I really became committed to the pro-life movement. I now know that 64% (some studies suggest up to 84%) of post-abortion women say they thought abortion was their only choice. Now these women have an alternative. Four out of five women who board a Storks Bus unit choose life for their baby.
What happened next?
Joe: In 2010 I was in New York to get some training in sidewalk counseling outside of abortion clinics. While there, I saw a van that a pregnancy resource center had converted to provide free ultrasounds. I was not impressed with the van itself — it was not a polished product. However, I had an experience that made me keenly aware of the effectiveness. I was a little nervous and very inexperienced in sidewalk counseling, and a woman walked up to me and told me she was there for her appointment at the abortion clinic. Not sure why she told me that, but fortunately in the moment I pointed out the van and told her there were some ladies in the van who would provide a free ultrasound if she wanted one. She readily accepted the idea of a free ultrasound. After a while I saw her leaving the van and making a call as she came out. I went up to her and said, “Do you mind if I ask you who you’re calling.” She responded, “My mom, to tell her she is going to be a grandmother.” Once again I was hooked. I wanted to make this experience available everywhere, with excellence. I had a vision of designing mobile ultrasound vans that would provide women with a very positive experience – a magical experience. I wanted them to feel the magic that women feel the first time they hold a baby.
So did you have the resources at that point to launch your non-profit?
Joe: No, not at all. We had a rough road ahead. I say ‘we,’ because Ann and I became engaged around the same time; we married in 2011. Instead of buying a new house we bought a gutted Mercedes Sprinter Van. To reconfigure the interior, we had to raise $60,000-$70,000. At that point we started traveling from event to event – attempting to raise support. Things were very difficult the first 2 years of marriage: newlyweds, living in the van; on a budget of no more than $3/meal; and barely raising enough money to pay for gas, which was usually charged to our personal Visa card. We were literally pleading with people and hoping they would catch the vision. Along the way we had some like-minded high school and/or college volunteers join us. No one got paid. I was very concerned on several occasions that our efforts would go under. Finally, two years later, in 2013, we established our non-profit, which helped us raise money more effectively and things started to take off.
I love the name “Save the Storks.” How did you come up with this name?
Joe: I had a small business making T-shirts that helped me pay my way through college. This enabled me to learn some business skills, but it also taught me the importance of messaging and branding. I wanted a name that would be somewhat disarming and would build bridges for conversation. As I spoke with more and more people from the pro-choice side, I realized many of them were also environmentalists. It seemed they would support saving whales and fish — why not storks? I remember the first time I wore a T-shirt with Save the Storks on it. I walked into an Apple store and hadn’t even reached the counter before a woman came up to me and asked, “Who’s killing storks?” This opened up a conversation. I knew immediately we had the right name.
And from there – what has the journey been like?
Joe: Fast forward. The first van was placed in Dallas, Texas, in 2012. At of today, there are 22 vans on the road and 20 in development. Save the Storks has raised over 2.7 million dollars, gained over 165,000 supporters, and, in collaboration with the pregnancy resource centers who have obtained the Storks Mobile Units, have saved over 1,000 babies. Save the Storks has launched several other initiatives to support pregnancy resource centers across the country. Besides the Storks Buses, we have Going Mobile support services, Assure Me Dispensers, StorksWorks Consulting, and StorksWorks Marketing. Through these services more women are reached and pregnancy resource centers are provided with expertise and advice to help them with messaging, infrastructure, fund raising, human resources, etc.
Joe and Ann Baker had a lot to learn starting out. Save the Storks has a desire to be an idea center for the pro-life movement and to fuel innovation within the pro-life community. They were in survival mode for 3 years. They understand how hard it is for many in the pro-life movement. The mission of Save the Storks now is: “to give abortion-vulnerable expectant mothers a choice that will change their lives forever… to partner with pregnancy resource centers all over the nation, providing them with powerful tools and training to more effectively connect with those moms in their communities.”
They want to help those in the pro-life movement to be creative and to reimagine how to succeed. One of the newest endeavors is Reimagine the Movement, which awards grants to pregnancy resource center directors who have creative, transformational ideas for improving services to their communities and saving lives.
Joe Baker and his team at Save the Storks are passionate and creative, and possess the drive to change the culture and save lives. They want to address injustice, apathy, anger, grief and brokenness so often seen in this battle…and God has given them the right team, right focus, and the means to minister in these areas. Visit their website for more information.
As Joe says, “We carry the Truth. We can win. If we carry it boldly, strategically and lovingly, we will win!”