SPRINGFIELD, Mo- Diaper Bank of the Ozarks has the largest rural program in the nation, according to Kelly Paprella, director of the Rural County Diaper Program at the diaper bank.
Diaper Bank of the Ozarks is located in Springfield, but covers 30 surrounding counties. Springfield is considered a smaller city to cover such a wide area. Funding and transporting diapers are major obstacles. This year, the diaper bank received a grant to hire a part-time director to expand rural diaper banks.
Diaper Bank of the Ozarks is located inside Crosslines. Director Tom Faulkner said the diaper bank distributes the most diapers in Springfield, but this main diaper hub is serving 30 agencies in 30 counties.
"Transportation is a unique challenge for us depending on the agencies and the vehicles," Paprella said.
"Well, we use our church van, which is 15 passenger vehicle and it holds two pallets of diapers, very reasonably," Karla Lowe-Phelps, Director of the First United Methodist Church, Laclede County Diaper Bank said. "I think we could get three in, but then I don't know where we'd put the people that are volunteering to help."
The Laclede County Diaper bank opened October 2017, after ladies at the church discovered 25% of children in the county are at or below the poverty line. Volunteers come to Diaper Bank of the Ozarks once a month to pick up donations.
"In our first, almost six months, we have provided almost over 10,000 diapers and over 10,000 wipes to mothers and children in need," Lowe-Phelps said. "This is only supplemental. We only provide one week's worth of diapers per child per month."
The Monett Community Kitchen and Food Pantry also noticed the need for diapers from families receiving assistance. Melissa Priest is the director.
"There's a real struggle," Priest said. "There's a need. We're a high poverty level in Barry and Lawrence county."
The group, which just received funding to become a diaper bank, will be the recipient of the CoxHealth Monett diaper drive this year.
"We can add these other agencies and cover much more territory and many more families," Priest said.
The goal is to get these rural diaper banks big enough to participate in national retail wholesale pricing.
"So by having these affiliate rural diaper banks, serve their specific communities, it's going to be best that way, so that they can raise funding for their area versus us trying to raise money from Springfield for their area," Paprella explained.
There is no government assistance for diapers because it's not considered a basic need.
"I think about the fact that those parents are under such stress that they don't change diapers as often as they should because they don't have the diaper availability," Lowe-Phelps said. "The second thing is that they will dry out and reuse diapers. Those are the realities of being in poverty."
"We're seeing families that are working, whether one parent is working or both, and they're just struggling to make ends meet," Faulkner said.
During the month of April, CoxHealth is holding a diaper drive to help these rural communities.
Collection boxes will be placed at CoxHeath facilities as well as several area businesses. The drop-off locations include:
Cox Medical Center South (North Entrance, West Pavilion, West Tower and The Turner Center)
-Cox North Hospital (Outpatient Entrance)
-Cox Medical Center Branson (Cafeteria and Plaza One)
-Cox Monett Hospital
-CoxHealth Primrose Building
-CoxHealth Learning Centers
-CoxHealth Home Support
-Hulston Cancer Center
-The Meyer Center
-The Martin Center
-Grooms Office Environments
-Great Southern Bank
-Sapp Design Architects
-Midwest Technical Institute
-Jack Henry & Associates (Springfield)
For additional drop-off locations or more information, please contact The Women's Center at 417-269-LADY.
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