JENKINS, Ky. (BP) — Bessie and Lester McPeek are known throughout eastern Kentucky as the Diaper Lady and Diaper Man. They wouldn’t want it any other way.
The McPeeks, married for 24 years, started a unique diaper distribution and parent education ministry in Jenkins, Ky., in 2001. Since then, they have given away more than 2 million diapers to single moms, unemployed families and others in the economically troubled region who are struggling to make ends meet.
As the area’s once-thriving coal mines have gone out of business over the years, many former miners have lost their cars, homes and families. Like many places in the country, the rise in unemployment has been accompanied by an increase in drug trafficking, especially meth, which further complicates the region’s woes.
The McPeeks’ ministry, named “God’s Love from a Diaper Bag,” provides diapers, food, baby showers, parenting classes, Bible studies and other resources to help ease families’ day-to-day challenges. Perhaps more significantly, it also offers hope, acceptance and a sense of worth for program recipients.
Working with volunteers from near and far who help keep the ministry supplied with needed donations and manpower, Bessie McPeek said God’s Love from a Diaper Bag often hosts baby showers for 35 to 40 women at a time.
“There’s nothing that’s more important than doing this for these mothers,” she said. “It’s made a tremendous impact.”
Bessie worked for the Kentucky Department of Welfare for 13 years before co-founding the diaper ministry with her husband. Her work with the welfare department “showed me what the mothers needed and what they had gone through,” including a young mother “who came in one day and said she had just sold her wedding ring to buy her baby clothes and diapers.”
The McPeeks’ ministry efforts “are hard sometimes,” she acknowledged, “but I feel fortunate and blessed to be able to help these mothers. We’ve been doing it for 18 years and it gets better each day.
“We’ve had some ups and downs but God has always brought us through. Just at the time when we’ve needed something, He’s always supplied it.”
Noting that “we’ve never been without a diaper since we started,” McPeek said, “We’d be without certain sizes and in would come a trailer with the sizes we needed. We’ve had diapers come in on UPS, FedEx, the post office, a cattle truck, an airplane — all different ways that they have brought diapers to our ministry. God has truly blessed us.”
In addition to the diaper ministry, she said God has provided numerous other resources and ministry outlets, including a free dental clinic, a sewing ministry and a 24-bunk mission house to accommodate volunteer mission teams. They also have given away thousands of donated toothbrushes, started a shoe distribution ministry and provided Christmas gifts to 1,000 children throughout the region.
As volunteers prayed with each child who received a pair of shoes, McPeek recounted, “One little boy said, ‘I love them. This is the first pair of shoes I’ve ever had. I usually wear my grandmother’s shoes.'”
While most people typically take for granted such a basic necessity as shoes, she pointed out, “These children have nothing. It’s so touching when a child gets what they need — not what they want but what they need. They’re so thankful.”
Among the McPeeks’ newest ministry resources are a pair of high-tech infant simulators. One dramatically depicts the effects on babies who suffer from Shaken Baby Syndrome and the other shows the multiple physical complications for infants whose mothers used drugs while pregnant. Bessie uses the donated dolls to help teach pregnant women and mothers how to take care of their babies and guard their safety and health.
As they make plans for future ministry projects, McPeek said their mission needs doctors, dentists, individuals with construction skills and others to volunteer their time to help meet pressing needs throughout the area. They currently are working with Baptist Nursing Fellowship, a ministry partner of national Woman’s Missionary Union, which will sponsor BNF mission teams to serve at God’s Love from a Diaper Bag next May.
Churches, mission groups or individuals interested in volunteering with the McPeeks’ ministry may contact Bessie and Lester McPeek at 606-213-6302 or [email protected]. Projects range from leading Vacation Bible School and Bible studies to constructing handicapped ramps, home repairs and painting projects.
Emphasizing that they make sure ministry recipients “know that everything we give them comes from God,” McPeek concluded, “We want God to shine in everything we do” as they share God’s love from a diaper bag and much more.