There are thousands of children across the globe, but also in the Fox Cities, whose caretakers are forced to choose between providing them with food or with clean diapers. Maybe it’s providing them with both, but at what cost? There are families and caretakers who are forced to dig through waste to find, used, disposable diapers to put on their children. What do you do when you’re forced to make a choice between feeding a child and properly clothing them? Jake’s Diapers, a small, 501c3 nonprofit organization located in Kaukauna, is providing fresh, reusable, clean, cloth diapers so that families and caretakers have the freedom to focus their money and attention on food and other health aspects.
Jake’s Diapers is giving hope by working to provide orphanages with clean, cloth diapers so that they no longer have to clean up fecal matter from makeshift diapers in areas like Haiti. They also are working to provide diapers so that the infant mortality rate can be reduced in areas like Costa Rica.
“Our original goal was to help 15 babies in Peru,” says Stephanie Bowers. She and her co-founder, Ann Hinkfuss, took a mission trip in 2013 that left them largely impacted and determined to do something. “Now, we’re approaching 3,000. A friend of mine was adopting a child from Haiti so we contacted the orphanage to see if we could help them. They didn’t need diapers, but they knew of another orphanage that did.”
Bowers, the mother of Jake whose namesake the organization stems from, has a love for cloth diapers because they are reusable, environment friendly, natural and a healthy, safe option. This being the case, she used them for both of her children and acquired an excess of them.
Jake’s Diapers has made a very large impact across the globe and has even been the answer to prayers. The orphanage in Haiti that Bowers and Hinkfuss heard about “had 75 babies recouping from malnutrition and the only diapers they had were a barrel of rags donated after the earthquake,” says Bowers. Not only was their new endeavor welcomed in Haiti, it also spread to Guatemala.
“We met missionaries in Guatemala who helped families that lived in a dump and by giving diapers, we’re giving families hope,” explains Bowers. By giving these Guatemalan caretakers cloth diapers, Jake’s Diapers is allowing them to continue to care for children they may otherwise have had to give up.
Jake’s Diapers partners with local and global organizations, and orphanages that are already working with those who Jake’s is trying to help, such as children, both adults and children with disabilities, and really anyone who is in need of the service that Jake’s provides. An example of this globally, though there are several, is the Bethel Ministry.
“We were led to the Wheelchair Ministry in Guatemala, the Bethel Ministry, that helps adult children,” says Bowers.
A closer to home example is right here in the Fox Cities. “We partnered with the Center for Suicide Awareness in Kaukauna. It breaks my heart,” explains Bowers. “We’ve got local veterans living with PTSD who are struggling to get by and having to choose between food and diapers. This is a choice that I believe no caregiver, near or far, should ever have to make, much less local veterans who have risked their lives for us. It’s just a diaper, but so much more than a diaper.”
Because of this, Jake’s Diapers began their mission to serve as many orphanages and rescue centers as they can. “We currently have 28 Diaper Drops in 18 countries — 16 orphanages or rescue centers — that have inadequate diapers for all these children. We work predominately with babies (but we’re) trying to figure out how to get diapers to 400 special needs children and adults that need cloth diapers. These children have been found on river banks, or in dumps, and have serious medical needs,” says Bowers.
Jake’s Diapers has diaper drops in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Peru, Papua New Guinea, the Dominican Republic, Tanzania and more, including two diaper drops in the United States.
They are currently on a mission to garner support in order to further their reach, as well as keep up the drops they already manage. Jake’s Diapers is holding their first crowd-funding campaign. It will be held at The Draw in Appleton on Thursday from 5-7p.m. with a presentation at 6 p.m.
“It’s basically a simple social event. Sartori Cheese has donated cheese for tasting and we’ll be pairing it with a few wines and some breadsticks from 416 Cuisine. The objective is awareness and for people to come out, learn more about the life-changing and lifesaving work of Jake’s Diapers. It’s an opportunity for them to learn more about us and us about them,” says Bowers. “We’re aiming for a nice group of 25-50 people, people who are passionate about helping those in need.”
Their kick-off campaign began in De Pere with Starry Realty who has been a big supporter of Jake’s Diapers.
There are countless nonprofits in the Fox Valley, but Jake’s Diapers is a unique one. “We’re the only known nonprofit out there in the Fox Valley or really even worldwide that does quite what we do,” states Bowers. “There’s a huge gap out there in diaper need, because people don’t think about it. The focus is more on water and food, which is great, don’t get me wrong, but people don’t think about the (diaper) aspect. We provide such a basic, frequently overlooked necessity. It’s just a diaper, but really, it’s so much more than a diaper. It’s not having to choose between food, diapers, medical care and more. It’s hope.”
Jake’s Diapers is working on building up business partner relationships, though they have a few already that have been key in furthering the success of Jake’s such as Sartori, Nikki’s Diapers, as well as the co-founder herself, Nikki Maynard, Thrivent Financial, United Healthcare and a few others.
Another unique aspect of Jake’s Diapers is that all the diapers are “hand delivered because that way we know they are sure to get there,” says Bowers.
In order to continue the provision that so many countries and caretakers are looking for and relying on, Jake’s Diapers needs continued support both locally and globally. To be part of the mission, either via donation or volunteering, or simply to learn more, visit www.jakesdiapers.org.
“For $231 we can provide one baby a lifetime supply of cloth diapers from birth through potty training,” states Bowers.