A Dandy Update: Diaper Dandies Ministry Breaks the Cycle of Poverty in Fort Smith

Two years ago, we brought you a story about a diaper ministry that was started when Rev. Steve Poarch at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Fort Smith became concerned after noticing a large number of babies with unchanged diapers in his community.

Rev. Poarch worked with others in the church and community to create Diaper Dandies with the goal of distributing diapers, wipes and rash ointment in an effort to improve the health and welfare of the community’s most vulnerable members.

At their first event around 6 years ago, they were excited to serve 29 babies. By 2020, the Diaper Dandies ministry was distributing about four times a year, with each distribution providing a two-week supply to an average of 100 infants and toddlers.

As of February 2022, Diaper Dandies has served 3,251 babies since its inception.

While COVID and supply chain issues have made regularly scheduled distributions difficult, they attempt to have a distribution every other month.

“Our distributions have now transitioned to drive-through events in our parking lot, and we easily distribute supplies for over 100 babies at each event; sometimes in just over an hour,” Rev. Poarch said.

With additional grants from the Windgate Foundation and the Western Arkansas Community Foundation, they have recently added availability of infant formula at our distribution for families with the youngest babies as needed. Rev. Poarch added that they recently purchased 20 umbrella-type strollers to give out as needed.

“We have partnered with social workers in the local schools to identify families in need,” said Rev. Poarch, “and through this connection are offering any and all of the supplies available on an as-needed basis.”

The community supports the ministry through donations, primarily at the church’s annual “Bands-for-Babies” event, which is held at a local restaurant/music venue and features performances by local bands and artists intermixed with appeals for donations and explanations of the ministry.

“This past year, a passerby was so touched by what she heard, she submitted our ministry as a recipient for a grant through the company for whom she works,” Rev. Poarch said. “We were blessed to receive that grant.”

The ministry is also bringing together churches in the community. A local church men’s group expressed their interest to organize a diaper drive with their congregation for Diaper Dandies and would like to not only give the ministry diapers but also assist with a distribution.

This past Christmas, with the assistance of a Windgate Foundation grant for COVID relief, they assembled Christmas gift bags for each family that received diapers. In each gift bag was an assortment of toys, candy, household goods, and a $20 gift card to a local retailer.

“The need in our community is great enough that this ministry could grow exponentially and probably still not cover it. We are not sure exactly what will happen going forward, but we do not want to lose the personal interactions and the connections we are able to make through it as it is now,” said Rev. Poarch.

Read the original Diaper Dandies story from 2020

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