It was an impromptu conversation with a neighbor in October that got the ball rolling for Debi Rucker.
"The neighbor's sister runs the Detroit Area Diaper Bank and he was telling me about the great need for diapers. My heart just went out to this women," said the FishHawk Ranch mother age two, ages 2 and 6.
"I've been fortunate. I've never had to struggle to buy diapers for my children. And it broke my heart to think of the mothers out there who can't buy diapers," she said. "It's often overlooked. No one really thinks about the cost of diapers but my eyes were opened to it.
Rucker did a bit of research and was astounded to discover there was no diaper bank in Tampa Bay similar to the one in the Detroit area.
"So, with the support of my husband, we decided to start a nonprofit, Blessed Bottoms as a ministry of our family," she said. "God just put it on my heart that this was something I needed to do."
Unlike formula and baby food, the cost of diapers aren't covered by Food Stamps and WIC, a program that provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods for low-income pregnant and postpartum women as well as their infants and children up to age 5.
And for low-income mother, purchasing diapers, which cost $8 to $15 a package, can be a struggle.
"But diapers aren't a luxury," said Rucker. "They're a basic hygienic need. My heart just went out to these women who couldn't afford to purchase them."
Rucker said a child who is forced to wear a wet or soiled diaper is at a higher risk for emotional distress, health problems and abuse.
And the need is great, said Rucker. In Florida, 42 percent of families with children are considered low income and 10 percent of Florida's children are living in extreme poverty.
Although Blessed Bottoms is just a couple of months old (it became a nonprofit Dec. 12), Rucker has managed to collect more than 4,000 diapers for three organizations: LifeCare of Brandon, which helps women facing crisis pregnancies; A Kid's Place of Brandon, which serves neglected and abused children; and Seeds of Hope, a food bank at Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Lithia.
"Our strategy by serving these three organizations was to help the poor, the orphaned and preserve the sanctity of life," said Rucker. "If we can make a difference by helping the most vulnerable of our population, the children, we've served our purpose."
Most of those 4,000 diapers came from diaper drives at the Ruckers' home church, FishHawk Fellowship Church, and Lamb of God Lutheran Church, Rucker said.
"We're also seeking other churches, clubs, organizations and students looking for service hours to help us collect diapers," said Rucker. "Ideally, we would like to have collection sites throughout greater Brandon."
Blessed Bottoms also accepts monetary donations to purchase diapers. She recently received a $1,000 donation from the DaVita Dialysis Center.
"We were thrilled," she said. "Donations will allow us to purchase diapers in bulk and get the cost down to 20 to 30 cents per diaper or 40 cents for pullups.
She added that, since Blessed Bottoms is run by volunteers, 100 percent of the donations go to purchasing diapers. And donations are tax deductible.
Most recently, Rucker has teamed up with the H & R Block at 1967 Lumsden Rd., in Brandon Centre South, behind Bonefish Grill, to host a Love A Child Diaper Drive on Feb. 14. The one-day diaper drive takes place on Valentine's Day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Residents can bring new or partial packs of diapers and drop them off in a bin at the H & R Block.
"I think it's a great cause, and I wanted to do something worthwhile," said H & R Block officer leader Edna Jones. "There are too many families in need."
Jones said the office will offer prizes and drawings throughout the day for those bringing diapers in. They'll accept any brand and size as well as partially used packages that babies have outgrown.
For more information on Blessed Bottoms, visit the organization's website.