PLAIN CITY, Ohio – Kayla Smith favors the Luvs brand of diapers – the baby-powder scent, in particular.
The aroma fills the dank cellar of Jerome United Methodist Church in Plain City, where dozens of colorful boxes of diapers pack fill freestanding black shelves.
“The basement smells bad,” said Kayla, 11, “but they make it smell good.”
For the past two years, Kayla and her mother, Amy, have spearheaded the Diaper Angels ministry at the church.
In early 2015, a friend of Amy Smith's received an email from the Huggies brand with a message about diaper donation banks, prompting the friend to start a charity. After the woman's infant son began consuming more of her time, Amy Smith stepped in as volunteer in chief.
Now, the church basement houses 10,000 to 15,000 diapers in all sizes, brands and scents.
Amy Smith and Kayla place a donation box at church, host diaper drives and recruit church volunteers to help organize and package the products. They then drive the pastel-colored packs to a food bank or an outreach program.
And every three months, about 25 volunteers from Diaper Angels bundle packs of 25 diapers with baby wipes to take to the First Birthday Party program at the United Methodist Church for All People on the South Side. Volunteers hold babies and hand out brown paper bags decorated with a “Happy Birthday” sticker.
Smith, 39, said she was taken aback to learn how some lower-income mothers are working to manage the high cost of diapers.
“Everyone knows diapers are expensive,” she said, “but I didn't realize people were reusing diapers.”
Because most child care centers don't accept infants unless parents or guardians can provide a day's supply of diapers, some parents have told her that they wash the disposable diapers to stretch a box further.
Diapers aren't included in the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) – which provides infant essentials, such as formula – so the $500 average annual per-child cost of diapers can prove prohibitive.
Even before becoming Jerome's head pastor four months ago, the Rev. David Bridgman had witnessed the impact of Diaper Angels.
“Sometimes people can't hear the story of God's love in Jesus unless they can feed and clothe and diaper their family,” he said. “This ministry opens up the doors for somebody to experience and feel God's love for other people.”
Diaper Angels is a member of the National Diaper Bank of more than 300 diaper-collecting groups. Only the largest groups receive corporate donations – trucks of diapers from Huggies, for instance. The Smiths hope to one day expand the reach of Diaper Angels enough to draw from the bank donations.
Until then, the group's largest drives have stemmed from a personal sacrifice by Kayla. For the past two years, the only child has asked that, instead of giving her birthday presents, friends and family (and others) donate diapers for Diaper Angels.
Her mother posted a video on her Facebook page last year, hoping to collect 5,000 diapers for Kayla's 10th birthday on Feb. 23.
More than twice that number – 12,000 – rolled in.
UPS stopped by daily for a month to deliver packages from 20 states.