ELKHART — If everything goes according to plan, Andie Kingsbury and Stephanie Salisbury will help save 20 local families from ever having to buy a diaper again.
The plan? The Cloth Diaper Project.
The project is part of Green Olive Ministries, created by Kingsbury and Salisbury in 2012. Their goal is to teach money-saving skills to those with low or no income with a focus on sustainability.
The Cloth Diaper Project is the ministry’s first major endeavor. The duo, who first met nearly 10 years ago when they both worked at The Daily Grind, are using the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to help raise $10,000 to fund the three-month project.
“If you do the math, between newborn and potty training, diapers cost between $1,500 and $2,000 per child,” said Salisbury, a Middlebury resident. “None of which is covered by food stamps or WIC or anything like that and typically people have more than one baby, so there’s another $1,500 or $2,000.”
The money they raise will help them teach 10 area women how to make reusable cloth diapers that last for years. Once those women have learned how to make their own set of diapers, they’ll each make another set to donate to a local food pantry to “pay it forward,” Salisbury said.
Another reason they’re pursuing this project is because it’s earth-friendly. An average baby will go through 8,000 disposable diapers, which last centuries in landfills according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Kingsbury, an Elkhart resident, said the thought of doing the project became heavy on her heart this summer when she was volunteering at Church Community Services, a faith-based non-profit in Elkhart that helps people dealing with poverty.
“I’d walk through the pantry and the first question people asked would be ‘Do you have diapers today?’ And just watching their entire countenance deflate when there are no diapers was heartbreaking,” Kingsbury said. “That’s what actually connected the dots — I knew how to do this and we can find a way get these into the hands of people.”
Kingsbury taught herself how to sew reusable diapers several years ago when three of her children were in diapers and finances were tight. Now, she can make one diaper in a little less than two hours.
The diapers are sewn together using waterproof material, plastic snaps and soft fabric. There’s a pouch inside the diapers where a cloth can be inserted for absorbency. After use, the diapers can be machine or hand-washed. Kingsbury still has diapers she made for her children four years ago. The adjustable snaps mean one diaper can be adjusted to fit either a newborn or a toddler.
So far the Indiegogo project has raised $385 since it started on Jan. 12, and the online campaign will be open for donations until March 13. Kingsbury and Salisbury have also received a $1,000 grant from The Pollination Project, an organization that awards funds to grassroots projects. They’ve used that money to purchase start-up sewing supplies and equipment.
Right now, the ministry is focused on finding women interested in learning how to make the diapers so they can start up their sewing machines by the end of March. They plan to use Kingsbury’s home in Elkhart as their headquarters.
Salisbury believes that projects focused on teaching self-reliant skills are especially important for Elkhart County, which experienced an average unemployment rate of 8.5 percent in 2013 according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
“People who were making $30 an hour are making $7.25 an hour if they have a job now, so you gotta bridge that gap,” Salisbury said. “If we wanna end the cycle of poverty, we have to do more than just bridge that gap. So this is the beginning of that, we hope.”