Talking about diapers often elicits giggles, but for parents, paying for diapers is a serious business, especially when money is short for all the bills. There is no government assistance program that helps parents in poverty purchase diapers for their babies. But as someone who works with this population through other programs, Excelsior Springs UMC member Samantha Kilgore is well aware of the negative effects the expense of diapers can have on families.
“We know that one in three families report they don't change their babies' diapers as often as they feel they should, simply because of cost,” Kilgore said.
Low income families tend to spend more on diapers than families of more means. This is because these parents don't always have access to "big box stores," nor do they always have the means to purchase diapers in bulk, a cost-saving technique. The average cost-per-diaper in the United States is around .30 cents per diaper - but low income families often pay upwards of .50 cents per diaper.
Excelsior Springs UMC and Richmond UMC are doing something about it. Through their Mighty Diapers program, the churches are participating in a program to help non-profits provide people in poverty with diapers at cost. The program was a White House initiative through the Obama Administration. The churches signed up as a non-profit through www.jet.com. They are distributing up to 100 diapers a month for free to up to 40 families and are providing an opportunity for those families or anyone else to purchase diapers at wholesale prices. They also let people choose their quantity.
“This is helpful, because sometimes these families don't have $20 on hand - but they may have $5. And $5 will get them enough diapers to last until the next week when they have $5 more to get that week's diapers,” Kilgore said. Diapers are available at Excelsior Springs UMC every Monday evening, from 6:15 to 7:15, and the second Tuesday of the month, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and at Richmond UMC at times that are announced prior to distribution.
A lack of diapers impacts lives. Infrequent changing can lead to severe diaper rash, urinary tract infections, and extreme staph infections like MRSA.
“Mighty Diapers addresses a spectrum of issues that should be of great concern to us, as Methodists,” Kilgore said. “When we help babies, and young parents struggling to provide necessities for those babies, we are truly doing what we can to help ‘the least of these.”
To qualify for free diapers from Mighty Diapers, families must live within the Excelsior Springs or Richmond school district, and be at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. They need proof of residency, proof of income and birth certificate(s) to qualify. Prenatal mothers can also sign-up. Diapers at a vastly reduced cost are available to anyone to purchase without meeting income or residency requirements.
Even though they’ve only been at it for a few months, the churches are currently giving out 4,000 to 5,000 diapers per month. One family mentioned they are eating better because by spending less on diapers they are able to spend more on food. Another family used the savings to be able to purchase cribs for their twins.
Kilgore is very encouraged by the impact the program is having and hopes to see more churches become involved.
“I'm so excited by the idea that more churches may decide to make this mission part of their own. It truly makes an impact - bigger than I ever imagined,” she said.
For more information about starting a diaper program in your church, email Kilgore at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (816) 536-9877.