The Bishop Sullivan Center, located in Kansas City, Missouri provides food, jobs, and aid to individuals in the KC Metro area who need assistance. They have two food pantries, One City Cafe where homeless individuals can come eat a meal in a restaurant-like setting, and other programs including Project ElderCool.
They also run a program called Rick's Kids in honor of Rick Koenig who was a friend and supporter of Bishop Sullivan Center. On January 11, 2020, Rick Koenig suffered a spinal cord injury. Less than a year later that injury would take his life at the age of 62. To memorialize Rick’s kind and giving spirit, Bishop Sullivan Center offers a new service through its food pantries called "Rick's Kids".
The idea for Rick's Kids came when the director of the Bishop Sullivan Center noticed that when mothers were coming to the food pantry for food, they were asking for items such as diapers, wipes, and formula. Diapers are not able to be purchased with food stamps. BSC had many clients who weren't changing diapers frequently, were using the wrong sizes or were reusing diapers.
So, the Bishop Sullivan Center decided to set up some shelves in each of their pantries and fill them with items for infants. They have a sign over these shelves that reads, “Rick’s Kids.” Rick was a father of three, a grandfather of five, so kids held a special place in his heart. The items on the Rick’s Kids’ shelves are given to low-income parents for their children. Unbeknownst to these children they, too, are “Rick’s Kids.” Rick's daughter, Anna Ramirez, may sound familiar to some of you. That is because in February of 2020, we held our "Mail A Smile" event where KindCraft families wrote uplifting letters and cards for some people who needed a smile.
Rick was in need of some smiles after his accident so we wrote letters to him. He hung them in his room as you can see pictured here.
When Anna came to KindCraft with an idea for a service project in late 2021, we knew this was a project we COULD and WANTED to help with. Since we were not meeting in person, we thought a diaper drive would be a great way for families to give back to the community. We announced our event and started asking KindCrafters to collect diapers for Rick's Kids!
Our mission at KindCraft is to create a community of compassionate children through family service projects. We knew that parents could easily add diapers to their cart at Target or Costco, drop them off, and be done with helping. But that wasn't enough for us. We wanted to involve the kids as much as possible AND we wanted to make it EASY for parents to involve their kids. We all know how busy life is and so our job is to make serving together as a family simple and straightforward. Here is the project, here is where you deliver, here is how to involve your kids, here is why we are doing this, etc.
Our group covers a huge variety of ages from the smallest preschool kiddos to teens so we offered a few different options. To build empathy, we wanted to get kids thinking about what it would be like to not be able to diaper your baby. So first they have to access what they already know about babies. So we made this pink and blue printable word list for them to start racking their brains. Of course, many would say D is for diapers, a great segway for parents to begin a discussion on helping others.
We also really wanted them to think about some tough questions like how would mom feel if she didn't have a clean diaper to change her baby? Or what would you do if you only had a few diapers to get you through a week? So we created this reflection sheet to really get kids thinking about the struggles that some face in reality.
When KindCraft families signed up to participate in this event, we asked them to register for how many diapers they hoped to donate. We also asked if they would be having a family collection, or if it would be a larger group collecting such as a scout troop, school, or business. Immediately, we had families signing up to donate 50, 100, 200, etc diapers. We always try to aim high with our goals, many times setting a goal that we truly don't think is possible-but why not right? There's nothing to lose! So we set our goal to collect 10,000 diapers. We were hoping to hit half of that :)
We are SO very appreciative of all of our members who step up to help with our collections. KindCraft member Sue Hixson, led a neighborhood collection in her subdivision, Wilshire Farms, and they collected over 3,000 diapers!
KindCraft member Lori Belden led a collection at the preschool she teaches at, Redeemer Lutheran Preschool, and they exceeded what they had hoped to collect by a lot. Lori told us these families can really relate!
Numerous scout troops helped with our collection as well. Pictured below is Brownie Troop 2687, led by Kelley Asta. The girls are holding just a sampling of all the diapers they collected.
Leigh's School of Dance in Olathe also helped by setting a collection bin out in their studio for dancers to participate.
The Deets family, stuck at home in Covid quarantine, even had their oldest son research information about the project and his job was to teach his younger siblings! Imagine the impact that will have on his siblings, learning about caring for others from their brother.
Our collection lasted through the month of January and as you can imagine, we ended up with TONS of diapers. So many families contributing to a cause really adds up. We want to emphasize the fact that whether you participated as a family and donated 50 diapers, or were a part of a larger group that donated hundreds or thousands of diapers, it all adds up.
February 8, 2022 was delivery day-we lucked out with a sunny and 65 degree day to make our trip to the Bishop Sullivan Center. Anna's neighbors, Jerry and Jill Schaefer, were gracious enough to let us load their 12 passenger van with diapers so that we could make just one trip for our delivery. Thankfully they were also willing to drive and help us unload as well!
We arrived around lunchtime and were able to see One City Cafe in action. It was amazing to see how many people they provided with a nutritious lunch. Most folks grabbed their lunch to go, but some ate inside the cafe. We had help unloading all of the diapers from the kind Bishop Sullivan Center employees.
After unloading all of the diapers, we were given tour of The Bishop Sullivan Center by the Executive Director, Michelle Carlstedt. We first toured the food pantry. Across Jackson County alone, 111,300 people are food insecure. As one of the largest suppliers of groceries in the KC Metro area, Bishop Sullivan Center is proud to serve about 1,200 households per month through their two food pantries. They have their own chef at the cafe! Bradley Donaldson leads the One City Café team in cooking up wholesome, nutritious meals for the community five days a week.
So how exactly will all of these diapers make a difference in the lives of those in need? When folks come to the food pantry to get their groceries, they will also be able to receive diapers. The diaper donations even go beyond Rick's Kids, helping other organizations as well.
Here is a story that was shared with us from the Executive Director of Phoenix Family. Phoenix Family is a non-profit that provides social services to low-income families living in government subsidized apartments around town. Rick’s Kids provides diapers for Phoenix Family on a monthly basis.
Jennifer is one of our residents at Parvin Estates. She has twin girls that are two years old. One of the twins got COVID and has been very sick and in and out of the hospital. Because she was spending so much time with her sick child, her job let her go. She used all of her stimulus money and her savings on rent and utility bills. Although she lives at Parvin, she currently lives in market rate housing and is trying to get on section 8. When we gave her the diapers, she broke down crying and couldn’t believe it. She said she has started potty training but because the one daughter is so ill, it is hard to do one and not the other. She asked if we had any pull ups that she could have as she starts training. She wanted to make sure that everyone knows how much she appreciates everything.
We learned about many opportunities for your family to help at the Bishop Sullivan Center. They would love to have KindCraft families help in any of the following ways:
"Spring Cleaning" - gather gently used clothing that doesn't fit or you don't plan to wear again to donate to another child/family in need through our clothing closet.
Family Volunteer Night @ One City Café - visit bishopsullivan.volunteerhub.com to sign up for a night volunteering in the community kitchen. Or, just join us for dinner and conversation with other guests! Consider making a donation based on what you'd normally spend on a dinner night out at a nearby restaurant.
Sort groceries at the food pantry - families with older children can join us to sort and bag groceries for families in need. Since families can only stop by the pantry for assistance once a month, this would be a great opportunity for families to discuss what it would be like to have a set bag of groceries for the month with limited options, etc.
Host a lemonade stand, bake sale, or garage sale to benefit our Household Assistance program - funds towards emergency aid go a long way for people in our community, and we can often send back a thank you note or short story from the client who is helped by the funds donated.
Pictured below are two of Rick's grandkids with a small portion of the diapers donated through our drive. We are so thankful that Anna reached out to us. We learned so much about ways we can help others in our community. We know that Rick is smiling down from above, admiring his daughter carrying out his life of giving to others.