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Grand Rapids church in 'critical' need of larger-sized diapers for donations

The Northlawn United Methodist Church in the Creston Neighborhood serves dozens of children with a diaper ministry twice per month.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Inside a church she's attended her entire life, Kristina Weidenfeller holds the youngest of her five children, a six-month old girl, while her sister hides behind a chair, skeptical of the news camera that stands before her.

"My boys are very helpful. My girls, I just love everything about them. They're crazy, and they keep me on my toes," Kristina said with a smile and a laugh.

Kristina says she loves everything about being a mom, including the "craziness" of it all, and constantly being on the go. But as any parent will tell you, it's not an easy job. Finding diapers can be an especially challenging, and financially taxing task.

"Unfortunately right now it is kind of a struggle with the economy the way that it is," Kristina said.

"It's harder to find the diapers that you need and the sizes you need all in one spot without having to travel to multiple stores."

National Diaper Need Awareness Week will be held from Sept. 24 to Oct. 2. It serves as a call to action for to help the one in three American families that struggle to buy diapers for their children.

Sue Cleveland knows the struggle all too well.

"I'm a mom and a grandma, and there were times in my own life with my own children that there was less food on the table because the kids needed diapers, or food, or formula," she said.

"Diapers are not considered a necessity. So, a Bridge Card doesn't pay for diapers. You don't get diapers with any government help at all."

Sue and other volunteers at the Northlawn United Methodist Church on Fuller Avenue in Grand Rapids saw the need for diapers continuing in the city and beyond, so they decided to do something about it.

"We came up with the concept of a diaper ministry in July of 2021 and our first-ever ministry was October 16, 2021," she said.

The diaper ministry provides a package of 30 diapers and one package of wipes for each child, no questions asked. They simply request that those diapers not be re-sold. 

The ministry started as a once-monthly event and is now held on the first and third Saturday of each month from 10 to 11 a.m.

"We have approximately 75 kids that we serve in an hour, twice a month. That's amazing. That we can help just one family is awesome," Sue said.

"I think there's only three diaper ministries in the city, so we have people come as far away as Howard City. We've had people come from Muskegon to get diapers before gas prices went up, of course. I mean, they come from all over the city, Byron Center, Kentwood, Rockford and all over."

Many of the donations come from the church, which Sue says has about 60 people in attendance each Sunday. Anonymous donors and other churches have pitched in to help, as has Christian radio station 91.3 WCSG. Meijer and Sam's Club have also donated gift cards to the effort.

Pastor Zach McNees says he's proud of his congregation and community for stepping up.

"I think that's what church is supposed to be about. That's what strong communities are supposed to be for, is to help with people, whether they've grown up and been a part of it forever, or they are coming in for the very first time to help them know that no matter where they come from, a group of people is going to have their back," he said.

Kristina says she's grateful to have the support of her church. Other recipients have also shown their gratitude in the 11 months that the church has been doing the diaper ministry.

"We did have a father come in this spring, and he said, because you gave me these diapers and wipes I can put more food on our dinner table this week. And I was almost in tears, because at that point I hadn't thought about changing someone's life that much. But that really blew me away," Sue said.

But to keep the diaper ministry going, Sue says the church will need some additional assistance from the community. They are particularly in need of larger-sized diapers.

"Babies don't stay in little sizes very long. So, ones through fours we have quite a few of, but fives, sixes and sevens right now are critical. With what we have in our storeroom, I don't think we'll have enough diapers for our next diaper ministry, the first part of October," she said.

Donors can bring diapers to the church at 1157 Northlawn Street NE on Tuesday or Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They can call the church at 616-361-8503 to arrange a pick-up or email diapers@northlawnumc.org.

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