SEMINOLE — The African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," has never been more true than it is now. The concept behind the saying is that caring for children is a shared responsibility amongst the community as a whole.

Church leaders at Oakhurst United Methodist Church have taken that sentiment to heart, and in 2019, launched a Baby Basics program that helps lower income families by providing free diapers and wipes for children up to the age of 3. 

"They kind of fall through the cracks," said Ginny Leeds, who is part of a nine-person board that oversees the program. "They are people that don't get other assistance. They are very grateful people. They are just trying to get ahead."

To qualify for the program, the child must be under the age of three; the family must live in Pinellas County; at least one parent must be working; the household must meet the Florida WIC guidelines; and no one in the household can receive food stamps, supplemental security income or Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

"The goal is to improve the health of the children and infants who are served by this, and to help the families economically by taking that financial load off for most of the year is a huge blessing," said church Pastor Nathan Carlson. 

The program's first recipient of the diapers and wipes was a little boy whose mother passed away from COVID-19 right after his birth.

"He was our first baby," Leeds said. "We supported him for a year."

Since its debut, Leeds said the program continues to grow.

"Little by little over, the past few years, we've built it up to 50 (babies)," Leeds said. "Now, it seems like every week we get more and more applications. The word is getting out there."

While there are currently 50 babies in the program, there are 11 families on the waiting list. 

"The fact we have a waiting list doesn't make us feel good, it makes us feel more aware of the need," said Carlson.

Leeds said the program serves all of Pinellas County, and often has families traveling from as far north as Tarpon Springs.

"We definitely need a north county chapter," she said.

Carlson said they hope to find a partner in north Pinellas County that could help the program expand, and cut down on drive times for families.  

"We would love to have partners with this," Carlson said. "It's not difficult to train someone how to do it now that we have the infrastructure in place."

Currently, the program costs around $2,200 a month, and donations are greatly appreciated, Leeds said.

And while the program aids babies in need, its reach goes far beyond diapers and wipes.

"The other thing that has happened over the years — and that's due to Ginny and the other board members — we've built relationships with a lot of the families," Carlson said. "So, while Baby Basics provides diapers, wipes, the church has been able to connect them with other missions and ministries that we have. 

"The program might sound simple, but the impact on lives is dramatic and reaches much further than the program," he said.

If you would like to donate to the Baby Basics program, visit