Anyone who has children in diapers knows a number of issues can arise from leaving a diaper on too long. An unhappy baby is just one of them.
For many people, though, like grandparents who take care of their children’s children on a fixed income, having a plentiful supply of disposable diapers is not an option because they simply can’t afford them.
Cloth diapers may also be an unlikely option for many people on fixed incomes who live in rent houses without washing machines.
Diaper Dandies, an all-volunteer mission of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Fort Smith, is a group now preparing to issue its 16th distribution of diapers to those in need since being formed four years ago. They have four distributions a year. The next one will be 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 8 at the church, 4100 Grand Ave. People often begin lining up before 9 a.m.
In addition to diapers, the distributions also include ointment and wipes.
The Rev. Steve Poarch, pastor at St. Paul’s, said the Diaper Dandies was born out of a simple observation.
“A lot of kids who had come in with their parents seeking assistance, you could tell their diapers were sagging and had been on too long,” Poarch said. “It was a repetitive thing. We saw it way too many times … We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do?’”
After setting their minds to it in 2014, members of the church held their first distribution in March 2015. They served 30 children. Each child is given a two-week supply of diapers. Now, as the mission has grown, the church is able to serve up to about 120 children in diapers. In all they’ve provided a two-week supply of diapers to 1,302 children. Next week's distribution will put them over 1,400.
Each child’s supply of diapers, ointment and wipes has a value of about $30, and helps families use their money on other necessities like food and utilities.
“We could do 500, but we just don’t have enough diapers,” said Mary Huss, Diaper Dandies coordinator. “So many parenting grandparents are taking care of babies due to incarceration and addition … Foster parents, eight out of 10 times, who call have kids with special needs. And there are teenage parents. If there are babies we can help we will help them.”
Diaper Dandies works with single parents and women in crisis centers, and with other local nonprofits.
People who wait in line to receive diapers from Diaper Dandies are not asked for anything more than their name, phone number, and the baby’s age and diaper size. Huss said they use this to help them plan for future contact and to figure out what size diapers are most in need. They do not give out diapers larger than size five.
Huss noted their research shows, on any given day in America, 30 percent of babies spend their day in only one or two diapers.
Huss and Poarch acknowledge there may be some people who may not need the help with diapers as others. But that is on their hands.
“At least we know the babies will have clean diapers,” Poarch said. “There are definitely health risks associated with leaving diapers on too long.”
The mission has grown by leaps and bounds since being formed in 2014, the pastor added. Awareness and donations are their biggest obstacles.
They operate without a set income. The Diaper Dandies program is funded solely through donations from outside the church and mini-grants, like a $1,000 grant from the Western Arkansas Community Foundation. In other words, Diaper Dandies is not in St. Paul’s church budget.
The church provides Diaper Dandies with a storage closet, and allows the group free use of the fellowship hall for distributions.
Donations, however, are easily accepted through the church with a memo line that designates the funds for Diaper Dandies. Donations to the group are 100 percent tax deductible by virtue of being under the church’s umbrella, Huss noted. The per-baby cost for items given is between $27 and $30. Each distribution costs about $3,000.
The Diaper Dandies committee includes Huss, Poarch, Linda Beland, Glenda Bell, Alicia Boyd, Liz Kaylor, Debra Miller, John Mobley, Dian Nixon, Richard Nixon, and Dawn Stovall. Ben Beland assists in transporting the diapers from Walmart with his wife, Linda.
“They are quiet servants, for sure, just working hard and radiating care to all "our" babies and their families,” Huss wrote. “They were selected because of their giving personalities, and they work together flawlessly as a team, and are always ready to help.”