Called to Care: Local artist’s passion for children sparks diaper drive

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Ann King, Zionsville artist and business owner, has a history of helping children in need. Her experience became a passion that drove her to create a diaper drive for an Indiana children and family advocacy group.

Since 1972, King has worked on political campaigns and offered governmental guidance, including a stint as a special projects consultant for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, specializing in the sex crimes and child abuse divisions.

In the early 1980s, she began volunteer work with organizations such as the Family Support Center, which is now a part of the Children’s Bureau.

“I would do volunteer work when the kids were in school,” King said. “I got so interested in helping children that were taken away from their parents or abused and neglected. I feel that those children did nothing to deserve their circumstances.”

In 2001, King retired from her political career to pursue a passion for painting. She launched a gallery space in downtown Zionsville, A King’s Art Studio and Gallery.

“I had never been able to devote any time to art and creating,” King said. “I thought, the last part of my life I’m going to devote to art.”

King still felt a calling to help children. Her college friend, Sharon Pierce, also has a history working in child services. The two met at Ball State University in the 1970s through their sorority, Pi Beta Phi. Pierce, a Zionsville resident of 28 years, became CEO of The Villages more than 25 years ago. The Villages, a nonprofit organization, specializes in foster care, adoption and family services for Indiana’s children, youth and families.

King began contributing to The Villages in 2011. After donating financially for six years, she decided she wanted to go a step further.

“In 2017, Ann and I were having breakfast at Rosie’s,” Pierce said. “She said to me, ‘I want to do more than write a check.’”

At that time, The Villages was serving 3,000 children. According to Pierce, 57 percent of the children were 5 years and younger. Because of lack of care, many were not toilet trained.

“We were experiencing even 3- and 4-year-olds who had not been potty trained,” Pierce said.

According to Indiana Dept. of Child Services, foster parents in Indiana are paid approximately $615.90 per month for a child under 4 who does not require special services. Compared to other states, the rate puts Indiana in the bottom half of the U.S. for foster family pay. A week’s worth of diapers can cost as much as $40, on top of other expenses.

“It is not fair for families who have stepped up (to foster a child) to have to sacrifice their own families’ financial well-being,” Pierce said.

After hearing about the expense of diapers and other supplies, King ordered 1,000 diapers on Amazon and sent them to The Villages, where they were distributed among families.

“That gave us the idea to do an annual ‘Diaper Day’,” Pierce said. “Ann planted the seed and that seed has flourished.”

This year, 23,472 diapers were collected on The Villages’ Aug. 28 Diaper Day. In 2017, the inaugural Diaper Day brought in 21,531 diapers.

“(This amount would) only last about three days for the children they serve,” King said.

Noblesville resident and foster parent Altonio Spiker said he is thankful for the resources provided by The Villages, including the diapers his family received from the Diaper Day drive.

He and his husband, Stephen Spiker, began fostering 3-month-old Robert in July. Stephen and Altonio have wanted a child for more than eight years. Because they are a same-sex couple, many foster organizations denied them in the past. After two surrogacy attempts ended in miscarriage, they knew they would have to wait for the right opportunity.

“Marriage became legal for us, so we decided to give (foster care) another chance,” Altonio said. “We started looking for groups that would help us through it and we came across The Villages. We loved the support system they offered for foster parents.”

The Villages works hand-in-hand with organizations such as the Dept. of Child Services to vet each foster family with extensive financial and criminal background checks, home visits and more. It also requires the parents to take classes, receive first aid certifications and child-proof their homes.

“We got approved on a Monday and we got Robert that Wednesday,” Altonio said. “He was 5 days old.”

Altonio said many people choose not to foster a newborn because of the difficulty and expense. The money offered by the state does not cover the cost of day care for an infant. Altonio and Stephen are participating in a foster-to-adopt program.

“We’re hoping that he will be ours,” Altonio said. “This is something me and my husband wanted. (The Villages) gives you such an unbelievable support system. I’m happy that we chose to go with them.”

Altonio said the child can go through as many as 12 diapers each day. He is happy to have received diapers from The Villages.

King said giving diapers and donating to The Villages is a way she can give to the children in lieu of caring for them personally.

“I don’t feel that at my age I can take in a little baby,” King said. “This is a way that I can help take care of them and make their life a little easier and a little better.”

It takes a village

Volunteer support and donations are necessary to allow The Villages to serve more than 3,000 children and their families. The organization offers many different opportunities to get involved. Contact The Villages at villageskids.org/contact-us to volunteer or donate.

• Give diapers

Although Diaper Day has passed, you can donate diapers at any time by contacting The Villages.

• Volunteer

The Villages uses volunteers for help with on-site cleanup, foster parent in-service assistance and more. It has needs for individual, small group and corporate volunteers for as little as one day or as often as volunteers are willing to help.

• Donate money

In-kind donations from the community help The Villages meet the needs of children and families throughout the state of Indiana. The organization accepts donations of new or like-new items for children and their families.

• Wish lists

The Villages Indianapolis maintains a wish list of items that can help its particular children and families. View the wish list at amazon.com/registry/wishlist/3QO2A8EH4T0RZ.

• Host a baby shower

“Healthy Families” participants are in need of all baby and infant items, including but not limited to clothing, toys, diapers, food, formula, receiving blankets, lotions and wipes.

• Give a gift card

Gift cards for gas stations, grocery stores and department stores are needed by all of The Villages’ programs.

• Donate a hygiene kit

Toothpaste and toothbrush, hairbrush and comb, shampoo and conditioner, soap or body wash are all great items to provide to children who may have been removed from their homes. Travel-size items also are acceptable.

• Donate household items

Older youth who have aged out of foster care need items for independent living, including bedding and sheets, kitchen utensils, small appliances and other household items.

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