DC DIAPER BANK: TAKING A LOAD OFF FAMILIES
Caring for a baby can feel like a whirlwind sometimes. As if raising a child weren't stressful enough, many parents are left to worry about how they will provide their child with basic needs such as diapers. According to BabyCenter.com, disposable diapers cost an average of $72 a month. In other words, not easy on the budget.
The DC Diaper Bank takes a load off families who struggle just to make ends meet. In the District, 26 percent of children under the age of six live in poor families. DCDB’s mission is to "strengthen families by providing a reliable and adequate supply of free diapers to families in need," according to its website.
The idea for the nonprofit began in 2009 when founder Corinne Cannon and her husband Jay became first-time parents to a baby boy named Jack. After realizing how much work is required of parents, Cannon began thinking about mothers who are less fortunate than her and what she could do to alleviate some of the stress they experience on a daily basis. She was blown away to learn that the nearest diaper bank was more than 200 miles away in Pennsylvania.
"I remember being with a friend of mine in the park complaining about how no one had taken this issue on, what was going to happen, and why it wasn't being addressed and my friend finally said to me, 'Corinne, you just need to do it and so I did," Cannon said. "I knew I could make a difference and I felt I had a responsibility to do it.”
On average, more than 2,500 families receive 75,000 diapers monthly. To date, the organization has donated nearly two million diapers to deserving families. DC Diaper Bank works with 30 different organizations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Those organizations offer comprehensive family care and provide help with food, utility bills and case management.
Cannon says the DC Diaper Bank has little to do with diapers and everything to do with alleviating stress and indirectly adding income to families' budget: Rather than purchasing diapers, they’re able to put that money toward food and other essentials.
"What we want to do is work with one-stop shop social service agencies and use diapers as a way to get families to engage," Cannon said. "We know that families will reach out for diapers in a way they will not reach out for food and other services simply because they don't have another outlet."
As part of its Baby Pantry: Food & Other Essentials program, the DC Diaper Bank accepts tampons and pads, formula, baby food jars and pouches, shampoo and conditioner, pacifiers, bibs, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and laundry detergent, among many other useful items. Over the past two years alone, the Baby Pantry program has donated $105,000 worth of items.
The organization's community service was recently recognized by CNN Heroes. The nearly two-minute video highlighting the DC Diaper Bank’s work garnered lots of attention.
“We got calls and emails from all over the country from supporters, moms and dads in search of diapers, and folks wanting to know more about our work,” Cannon said. “More than 30 people contacted us to see how they could start a diaper bank in the community.”
GIVE A YOU-KNOW-WHAT
Much of the DC Diaper Bank's success is due in part to its hard-working volunteers, like Rick Bacon. A private tutor and father of an almost four-year-old boy and 5-month-old baby girl, Bacon coordinates the warehouse. His responsibilities include getting an accurate count of the diapers and making sure they’re packaged correctly before they’re shipped out.
Bacon was raised to give back and has done so for many years, but lending his time to the DC Diaper Bank has been an eye-opening experience, especially now that he’s a father of two small children. “There’s really no one type of person who needs help,” he said. “Oftentimes when people have an image of who would need help with diapers, they may think of a single mother who’s in bad circumstances, but the way this country is set up, a lot of the structural issues that lead to poverty can affect anyone."
From hosting a diaper drive in your local area to becoming an ambassador, there are several ways to become involved.
“The best part is that you see where the diapers are going,” Bacon said. “Meeting the parents who receive the diapers and seeing how thankful they are is always a great moment.”
Cannon admits the last thing she wanted to do is start a nonprofit having worked in the field for most of her life and knowing how difficult it is to successfully operate one. But, it’s a decision she doesn’t regret making after seeing how much of an impact the DC Diaper Bank has had on the community. She hopes her work will inspire others to start diaper banks in their communities as well.
“If we learned anything from the recession in 2008, it’s that anyone can become poor,” Cannon said. “I’m doing this because I want to live in a world that supports women, children and families because I have children, I am a woman and this could be me. It could be any of us.”