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Blessed Bundles Helps Close The Diaper Gap In Westmoreland County

Joaquin Gonzalez
90.5 WESA
Pam Feltes-McCurdy in a storage room in the basement of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in North Huntingdon, Pa.

Pam Feltes-McCurdy made her way through a small room in the basement of the Lutheran Church of our Savior in North Huntingdon, squeezing between the wall of the room and a rack of baby clothes. 

The rest of the room was packed with stacks of diapers and wipes, toys and more clothes.

Feltes-McCurdy is the executive director of the Blessed Bundles program at the church, which started about two years ago to address a pretty specific issue.

"Families who are low-income can receive assistance for food and health-insurance, but there’s not any assistance available for diapers and wipes and things like that," said Feltes-McCurdy.

This hole in the system is known as the “diaper gap,” or the "diaper divide," and it’s an issue because diapers and other baby items can be expensive.  Feltes-McCurdy said that for people with a certain amount of resources, it’s not as bad.

"We can use credit cards, we can buy online, we can buy in bulk, like on Amazon," said Feltes-McCurdy.

That brings the average price per diaper down. But for lower income families who can’t afford to do that, it’s a different story.

The Obama Administration started an awareness initiative on the diaper gap in 2016. According to one of its reports, households with infants who were in the bottom fifth of income were spending about 14 percent of their earnings on diapers, an average of $936 per year per child. And that’s just diapers.

"Car seats, high-chairs, cribs, crib mattresses, Pack 'n Plays, there’s many, many tools you need to raise a child and some of them can be very expensive," said Feltes-McCurdy.

On the third Saturday of every month, Blessed Bundles holds an open event where families — 40 last month, according to Feltes-McCurdy — can come and pick up diapers and these other baby items at the Westmoreland County church.

Nicole Bargiel lives in nearby West Newton. One of her two kids is still in diapers. She said she usually tries to buy in bulk when the money’s there, but otherwise she’s buying single packs at the dollar store, or getting a bit more creative.

"On Facebook they have a marketplace, and they’ll have people that their kids have outgrown their diapers and they’re selling them for $5, so I’ll do that sometimes, I’ll buy diapers on there," said Bargiel.

Bargiel said she’ll typically grab one pack at the church on those Saturdays to help hold them over, as well as some clothes for the kids.

Feltes-McCurdy says the program is entirely volunteer run, and members of the church actively help raise money for the program to buy supplies. Families who send their kids to a preschool housed at the church will frequently donate items, and according to Feltes-McCurdy, so do many of the families who stop by on the Saturdays.

“When their children outgrow them, they bring them back," said Feltes-McCurdy.

Bargiel said she's donated clothes and toys in the past, and plans on donating a high chair and car seat in the future.

"It seems like people that are poor, they donate more than people that have money. They know how it is to be poor, so they want to help out everyone else," said Bargiel.

As Blessed Bundles continues to grow, Feltes-McCurdy said she hopes to reach out to local businesses and other nearby churches to establish partnerships and increase donations.