Woman sending diapers to Russian orphans

March 25, 1997


Staff Writer

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - Many parents don't consider diapers to be a highlight of parenthood, but a Franklin County woman has become absorbed with diapers.

Cathy Fahnestock sent 640 hand-sewn diapers to Russia after hearing that babies there were going without them. But that's just a drop in the diaper pail.

Fahnestock, 42, visited a textile factory in North Carolina last weekend to line up a contract to make thousands of the cotton garments to send to Russia.


"I needed to find a way to mass-produce them and I needed a structure to make that happen," said Fahnestock, the mother of three.

She and her husband, Donald, 42, established Hands of Grace, an incorporated, nonprofit ministry with a sole mission: to make and send diapers to Russia.

Fahnestock, of Edgewater Drive, started the project last year.

The Fahnestocks learned of the Russian babies' plight in early 1996 from members of their church who had returned from a mission to Russia.

Babies and tots in the orphanages have no diapers, leaving their clothes constantly soiled, she said.

"Don and I sat in church with tears in our eyes," Fahnestock said. "At the very least a small child should have a piece of cloth between their legs. I decided right there to do something about it."

Fahnestock had just given birth to her third daughter, Shannon Christa, now 1. The couple also has a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old.

"I had just had my baby so I had a special feeling toward all babies," she said. Deeply religious, Fahnestock said she felt she was being called by God to help the Russian babies.

Her church agreed to help financially.

Fahnestock learned that Russians dislike disposable diapers and cloth diapers with pins, snaps or Velcro.

"I knew I had to come up with a different kind of diaper," she said.

She visited the homes of area Mennonite mothers who make their own diapers to see how they fastened them. Fahnestock and a friend designed a diaper with built-in ties, she said.

She found cloth and recruited members of sewing circles at five area churches to sew the diapers.

"We cut them by hand,'' Fahnestock said. "I had blisters. It took three months to make the 640 diapers."

She and her husband will seek donations from churches, civic organizations and ministries around the country to find money for the diapers, she said. "I already have orders from three ministries," she said.

The couple also will launch a lecture series and a direct-mail campaign to raise money for the diapers, she said.

"My goal is to put as many diapers on as many babies as I can," she said. "I expect this ministry to explode. It's going to go around the world."

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