Statistics and information related to maternal child health are not exactly at the forefront of societal issues, but there are those whom have made it their life’s passion to change that.
Such passion is why from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday in Stein Mart Square, a Community Baby Shower will be held for mothers and expectant mothers of Greenville’s Ward 4 and the local community.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Lurann Thomas-Kingdom, in partnership with the Diaper Bank of the Delta housed in Clarksdale and AmeriGroup, has organized a mass distribution of diapers for mothers and expectant mothers as well as other maternal child health essentials.
Diaper Bank of the Delta co-founder and executive director Chelesa Presley said not only will families be able to get diapers, they get a chance to win a car seat, a pack-and-play and a high chair with two of each being given away.
Presley travels to different cities and municipalities in the state and surrounding areas to promote the Diaper Bank of Mississippi — the first and only nationally recognized Diaper Bank within the state.
“They give out diapers for newborns, toddlers and they also give out feminine products to mothers, teenagers and also unwed mothers who are having children,” Thomas-Kingdom said. “So she has decided to come to Greenville and we’re so honored to have her here with us and to partner with project Ward 4 within the City of Greenville.”
The idea of the Diaper Bank of the Delta was birthed while Presley was working for another non-profit called Delta Health Partners.
Her experience in community action network meetings and covering Coahoma and Tunica counties led her to hone in on community members who were interested in maternal chid health and subsequently, her departure after 15 years.
“I said, “Ugh, you know what, I’m tired of this because we still hadn’t done anything for the community,”” Presley recalled. “I shut down my computer and I said we need something where we can provide some systemic change for mothers and babies.”
After months of brainstorming ideas to bring forth in her organization’s next quarterly meeting, the idea for the diaper bank came to life in March 2015.
With fundraising efforts from Presley and her dedicated team of 10 one Mother’s Day weekend in 2015, the organization was able to raise $2,000 in monetary donations and three truckload beds of diapers, baby wipes and other baby related items just from standing in front of the Clarksdale Walmart.
What followed was the donation of a building from Aaron E. Henry Community Health Services, generous donors and donations through partnerships with the City of Clarksdale, local law enforcement and schools for the Diaper Bank of the Delta to open its doors to the community in a storefront location.
“We found out that this is not a unique thing, diaper need is what it is and diaper need is a national movement,” Presley pointed out. “As a matter of fact, during that time, president Obama was the president and he even addressed diaper need which is that one in three families do not have sufficient diapers to properly diaper their infant or toddler.”
From there, the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi connected Presley and the Diaper Bank of the Delta with the national diaper bank.
“Now, I currently sit on the board representing the state of Mississippi,” Presley highlighted. “There’s over 230 diaper banks throughout the United States and U.S. territories and we went from addressing diaper needs to addressing Period poverty in 2018, which is the 1 in 4 women who do not have a sufficient amount of menstrual supplies to meet their monthly need.”
Presley said the organization initially only focused on the regional area around Coahoma County, but the pandemic happened and it began an initiative called the Diaper Bank on the Move.
“So we left our four walls and began to go to small communities and provide and setup pop-up distributions and drive-thrus,” she said. “We started in May of 2020 and we’re celebrating a year now. We go to communities twice a week — every Tuesday and Thursday we’re somewhere in the state of Mississippi or the lower Delta region of Arkansas.”
According to Presley, the organization gave out over 75,000 diapers in 2019.
The pandemic emerged and by the end of 2020, the organization had given out over 350,000 diapers she added.
“We’ve served over 10,000 children in the state of Mississippi and helped over 8,500 families,” Presley noted. “So, the reason we’re coming here today is because AmeriGroup is the organization that contacted me and they wanted to do this community baby shower in the city of Greenville.”
Thomas-Kingdom said, “I want to make sure not only in Ward 4, but in the City of Greenville, we can help those mothers with diapers for their newborns and their toddlers. I’m very passionate about helping mothers that have children or will be having their newborns within Ward 4 and the City of Greenville.”
The councilwoman also said she is endeavoring to have another Diaper Bank of the Delta be housed at Ward 4’s Rounds Park.
“We’re trying to build partnerships in each community because it’s not sustainable for me and my team to continue to travel the state the way we’re doing, but if we have partners and let them serve their communities, they’d do a better job because they know their community,” Presley said.
The Diaper Bank of the Delta is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and have “everything that a parent would need for children who are infants to 5 years of age.”