A ministry that gives diapers to mothers in need in southwest Florida has caused a controversy in the Sunshine State.
Destiny Diaper Bank has adopted a policy that encourages people to volunteer at the facility or attend a church service to take advantage of the program. But some suggested the new rule discriminates against non-Christians.
Rebecca Hines, who leads the organization, said her non-profit distributed about 3,000 diapers a day in 2010. That's a big demand for the small center run by only Hines, her husband and volunteers. However, the need gave her an idea she implemented just before Christmas.
"Why couldn't I ask the moms if they would please come volunteer at our center for one our per pack of diapers they need?" Hines asked. "I thought it would be a great way to boost volunteers here."
Moms can volunteer at the diaper bank or attend a service at Light Church in Fort Myers.
However, Harry Chapin Food Bank has now ended its affiliation with Florida's only diaper bank because of the ministry's new policy.
"Destiny Diaper Bank decided that they were only going to serve people of a certain faith," said Al Brislain, Executive Director of Harry Chapin Food Bank. "And that's just not something that's in our guidelines."
The food bank's decision is a big loss for Destiny Diapers. The food bank gave the ministry thousands of pounds of baby food and other goods last year, and sold them diapers at a discount.
"Our commitment is to people in need and that people in need are served in a fair and equal manner," Brislain said.
Hines said she is also committed to all people in need.
"I have never required anyone to get food for anything," Hines said. "They do not have to volunteer. They don't have to jump hoops. They don't have to go to church."
Still, another ministry partner, Huggies, has looked into Destiny Diaper's policy.
"The single mission of Huggies Every Little Bottom is to help get diapers to babies and families in need," Huggies brand manager Craig Wanous. "We're continuously evaluating the program to ensure that the program mission is upheld by our partners."
However, Hines said she's done nothing wrong. Since the policy began, more than 600 people have attended church, and she has only received three complaints.
* Originally published Jan. 28, 2011.