by Ellen Filgo
When my older son finally potty trained at age 3 years and 4 months, it was a relief to not have to change the diapers of my articulate, stubborn little boy who clearly could use the toilet (but just didn’t want to). It also meant that I no longer had two children in diapers. That’s right, our family had two in diapers for more than a year! It was a relief on our budget to save that money. Diapers are expensive. They can cost up to $100 a month per baby, which can stretch even a middle class family’s budget.
Now imagine you are the 1 out of 3 families in the country who struggle to afford diapers. There are 5.8 million babies in the United States aged 3 or younger who live in poor or low-income families. Not having enough diapers can mean that babies are left in soiled diapers longer or that parents re-use diapers that are meant to be single use. This can lead to health risks for the babies, such as rashes or infections. A clean supply of diapers is also required at the vast majority of childcare centers. If parents can’t provide them, they may not be able to enroll their children in early childhood programs, or even be able to enter the workforce themselves. Lack of access to diapers can sometimes hinder a parent in getting or staying employed at the job they need in order to become more financially self-sufficient.
There is no state or federal safety net program that allocates money for diapers. You cannot buy diapers with SNAP (food stamps) or WIC (a federal program that helps provide food for women, infants and children). Many existing social service organizations, focusing on hunger, homelessness, abuse or pregnancy try to provide diapers to the families they serve, but they rely on irregular donations and they are often lacking larger sized diapers for toddlers.
This is where the Waco Diaper Bank comes in. Our mission is to collect donations of diapers in order and distribute them to those other social service organizations. We will focus on diapers so that they can focus on their main missions. Our main way of collecting diapers will be through diaper drives. These can be organized by the volunteers working with the diaper bank, or by other people – Girl or Boy Scout groups, schools, fraternities or sororities, businesses – anyone can organize a drive! The Waco Diaper Bank will distribute the donations to our partner social service agencies. If individuals want to donate money, we can take that too! We can use it to purchase diapers in bulk, which can be a cheaper way of collecting diapers.
To kick things off, the Waco Diaper Bank is hosting a community wide December Diaper Drive from the 1st to the 14th of December. All sorts of churches, organizations and businesses have signed up to be drop-off locations for donated diapers. We’ll take everything – all brands, sizes, packages; we’ll even take loose diapers, opened packages or the leftovers from a “diaper cake!” You can find the drop-off locations and more information about the diaper bank at our website www.wacodiaperbank.org .
About a year ago, when I first heard about what a diaper bank was, I immediately knew that Waco needed a diaper bank, for two reasons – well, actually three! First, because of the high rate of poverty in Waco. There are a lot of little bottoms that need to stay clean, dry and healthy here in town. Secondly, because of the existence of so many great social service organizations that are already doing wonderful things. Collaboration is the watchword here in town and the diaper bank model is inherently a collaborative one. And the third reason was something that I knew about Waco, but hadn’t really FELT until we started our diaper drive promotion – Waco is a town with a great big heart. There may be a lot of need in our community, but there is also a lot of love and a willingness to give and share. And that’s why I believe my hopes for the Waco Diaper Bank will ultimately become a reality.
Ellen Filgo is a research librarian at Baylor and a Wacoan of 8.5 years. She loves living in Sanger-Heights with her husband, her stepson and her two energetic little boys. She has been known to get sidetracked researching the answer to a random question casually asked in a Facebook post.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.