Baby Basics

Rental assistance. Utility bill assistance. Food assistance.

For years, families have turned to St. Paul United Methodist Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas, for help with necessities. As the church worked to meet their needs, Rev. Steve Poarch noticed that these families also were in need of diapers.

“It just became a recurring event to see that, and it weighed heavy on my heart,” Poarch says. “When families are poverty-level and below, it is not uncommon for them to leave one disposable diaper on a child for the majority of a day, and we know that that’s not the best thing health-wise for the babies.”

So, he assembled a team to launch the Diaper Dandies Ministry at St. Paul UMC, which has an average weekend attendance of about 100 people. In 2014, the ministry held its first event, giving away boxes of diapers and baby wipes, purchases the church made through fundraising. The team served 29 babies at the inaugural distribution. Today, the ministry serves more than 100 babies on average during its diaper giveaways and has helped 3,449 babies in total. 

Grants from organizations such as the Windgate Foundation and the Western Arkansas Community Foundation have helped the church expand its reach and hold six diaper distributions each year. Very few of the families assisted attend St. Paul’s, Poarch says.

“This is an outreach ministry; it’s not for our people,” he says, adding that those served show “an extreme level of gratitude.”

As COVID-19 supply chain issues make diapers pricier, Diaper Dandies has grown in importance as a community resource. The ministry team wants to see it become a program that serves parents in a multifaceted manner. In 2020, the ministry began partnering with Child Care Aware of Northwest Arkansas to offer parenting classes. 

Ultimately, Poarch says, “we want this to be about the whole baby.”

Nadra Kareem Nittle
Nadra Kareem Nittletwitter.com/NadraKareem

Nadra Kareem Nittle has written for Outreach magazine since 2009. She has written about faith and other issues for a number of publications and websites, including the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, About.com's Race Relations website, TheLoop21.com, PRISM magazine and the Inland Valley Times. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles.