Seymour church starts diaper pantry

Victoria Smith lost her job and home and had money stolen.

That caused stress in her life, and she had to explain to her kids the difference between wants and needs.

While they may deserve a toy, that’s a want. Diapers to wear and food on the table, those are needs.

The Seymour woman recently was handed a flyer about the new Sweet Cheeks Diaper Pantry at First Presbyterian Church in Seymour, and that couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We really needed diapers, and we had four left to our name, so we were freaking out,” Smith said. “They had a paper that this was starting, and it was literally the biggest blessing in disguise. It was like a miracle. The timing was impeccable.”

The diaper pantry was starting a couple of days later. She and her husband got by with the diapers they had, but stopping by the church Sept. 1 and receiving a bag containing diapers and wipes made a big difference.

“We’ve been having such bad luck, but this is the best feeling. I got chills. I could cry right now,” Smith said. “I’m so excited, and I’m very depressed, so this is a thing that lifts me up.”

As she left the church last week, she thanked the volunteers who made it possible.

“I really appreciate you guys and what you do. It takes a lot of heart and soul,” Smith told them. “I’ve lost myself, so I know what that feeling used to feel like, and I’m excited that you guys still have that to help others in the world. This is the biggest blessing that I could have had today.”

Now, the stay-at-home mom with two kids in diapers knows she has a place to go twice a month to get what she needs.

“I will be back,” Smith told the volunteers. “I’ve been sharing this with everybody I know who has kids because everybody I know has a hard time getting diapers. It is a stressful situation to not have diapers. It’s not easy.”

The Smiths were among 20 families who stopped by in the first hour of the diaper pantry on opening day. There were still two hours left after that.

“We’ve been blown away by the first night attendance,” church member and diaper pantry volunteer Jessica Olsen said. “Any time you do this, you always have that fear of ‘I’m not going to get the word out’ or ‘This isn’t a true need like I thought it was,’ and so to know that you nailed it on the need is so comforting because it just shows you that you can help and you can make a difference, and at the end of the day, that’s what Jesus tells us to do.”

The pantry is open to Jackson County residents from noon to 3 p.m. Sundays and Mondays and from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays at the church, 301 N. Walnut St., Seymour. Signs are placed outside the church on those days. People can park in the parking lot off of Third Street and enter the door on the west side of the building and walk down the steps.

There, they will stop by the registration table and show identification and proof of Jackson County residency. If they are new, they will fill out a form, and that will be filed in a binder for volunteers to note the date and size of diapers received each month.

Then they will be handed a blue bag with 42 diapers and two packages of wipes (preemie to size 7) or 28 pull-ups and one package of wipes (2T to 5T).

If a child comes with a parent, they can sit at a table and receive crayons to color and take home as forms are filled out.

Many communities offer opportunities for people to receive food, clothing, shelter and even pet food, but diapers are a necessity, too. That was the idea of starting the diaper pantry.

In the spring, First Presbyterian had a congregational meeting for members to discuss things they wanted to see happen in the church.

“One thing that kept coming up was members wanted some sort of mission that the church could be involved in,” said Sheri Hookey, wife of Pastor Scott Hookey.

Session members were given the task of joining a congregational member to come up with a mission for the church. Olsen called Sheri and they brainstormed needs in the community that weren’t being met.

“We came up with the diaper pantry,” Sheri said.

In the process, Olsen said they learned SNAP and WIC don’t support diapers for families.

“So we knew that the rising economy troubles for everybody, that could be a big need in the community,” Olsen said.

They reached out to a church in Charlestown that has a diaper pantry to get ideas to start one of their own.

“People have to call the church and make an appointment to come pick up the diapers, and we wanted it to be more of a ‘We’re open these hours. Come in,’” Sheri said.

“We did go over and talk to Clarity (Pregnancy Services in Seymour). They have some diapers,” she said. “The way they are set up gave us an idea how to set up the shelves. We wanted to try to arrange hours that maybe would be more accommodating for families, like Clarity is just open a few days a week and it’s during the workday.”

Clarity gives out 24 diapers every two weeks, but they realized that’s less than two diapers a day, Olsen said.

“So we are providing 42 diapers every two weeks and two packages of wipes, and clients can come two times a month,” she said. “We felt like that would provide a baby or a toddler with around five diapers a day.”

To get started, Sheri said they went before the church’s session and asked if money that was left for the church by a member who died could be used for the diaper pantry.

“They graciously said yes,” she said. “We have applied for one grant. We will be applying for more grants, and we’re hoping that some of our members that, for example, are teachers, maybe their classroom would like to do a diaper drive or some of our members that work at some different places, maybe they would like to do a diaper drive. Of course, anyone can give a monetary gift that wants to.”

Any brand or size of diaper is appreciated, Sheri said. Diapers and other items donated or purchased are bagged by Hookey and Olsen and placed on shelves based on size.

For the opening day Sept. 1, they had 113 bundles.

To get the word out, Olsen said they decided to market social service agencies first.

“Then our goal is to be in all of the elementary schools, preschools, day cares, but we never want to turn anyone away,” she said. “We thought we’ll start small so that we can grow versus having to turn people away.”

Currently, church members are volunteering their time to staff the pantry days.

One of them, Claudia Villatoro, is available to communicate with the Spanish-speaking population.

“This is very important for people to know that we have this for them so they spend that money to buy formula or other stuff,” she said. “It is a real need. It’s a big need.”

Pastor Hookey said the church likes being able to help families who struggle to make ends meet.

“With this, first of all, it’s about our kids,” he said. “You’ve got to do what you can to help the kids in the community.”

It’s also about freeing up money for families to put food on the table or buy medication and other needs.

“We were trying to find something that really met a need and wasn’t covered,” he said. “We understand that complements things, too. We’re not competing. We’re complementing each other and just trying to support community efforts.”

Seeing the church members embrace the diaper pantry has been special.

“To see these people own this and get excited about it, it’s who we are as people of faith. It’s part of our life as people of faith,” Hookey said. “It’s huge to see a church put our arms around a mission project and make a difference. Hopefully, we meet a need, and hopefully, we keep this thing sustained over time.”

If you go 

What: Sweet Cheeks Diaper Pantry

When: Noon to 3 p.m. Sundays and Mondays and 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 301 N. Walnut St., Seymour (park in the parking lot off of Third Street and enter the door on the west side of the church)

Who: Open to Jackson County residents (bring identification and proof of Jackson County residency)

Donate: To donate diapers, wipes or money, call the church at 812-522-5909