Don’t ever let anyone tell you browsing social media is a waste of time. That’s what led to the creation of the Food Bank of North Alabama diaper bank that serves the greater Huntsville area —and it all started with a group of concerned moms with a sense of purpose.
My friend Sarah, scrolling through Facebook one day, discovered two alarming studies one published in the American Academy of Pediatrics (2013), and another published by Huggies in 2010. Each verified what she already suspected, but hadn’t fully grasped – that providing diapers can be difficult for far too many families. The statistics then were humbling: one in three moms struggle to afford diapers for their babies. Even worse? 8% of mothers who participated in the study admitted to letting their child stay in a diaper they knew was dirty to make them last longer. Sometimes they even scraped a dirty diaper clean to reuse it.
“Y’all. What can we do about this?” Sarah wrote in a private group to her mom friends.
Huntsville, Alabama is a bustling high-tech town also known as the Rocket City. We build rockets that launch things into space, and have one of the highest concentrations of literal rocket scientists in the world. But for all our innovation, a quarter of Alabama’s families live in poverty.
We felt like we had to do something — these were babies in our city, and parents who needed help. So we did what any other group of determined moms would do. We activated the power of our parents network and community members, and got the ball rolling by building and mobilizing a ”village” of people with the common goal of fighting diaper need in our community. So how did we do it?
Step 1: Making Calls and Utilizing Connections
We called our friend Fran at Manna House. This hands-on charity provides food, clothing, and supplies to Huntsville’s homeless and those in immediate need. Working with them, we began planning the first year of The Great Diaper Drive, a month-long effort to collect diapers for local families.
We called our pregnancy boutiques, and our local hospital—which then covered the cost of a billboard to help spread awareness. Every place we called was more than eager to help. Not one person we talked to could bear doing nothing when babies in the Rocket City were in need.
Thanks to the generosity of Rhonda, another fellow mom, the drive culminated in a “diaper shower.” Held at a popular indoor playground, the cost of admission was, you guessed it, a pack of diapers.
Step 2: Getting The Media On Board
A great way to expand your “Village” is utilizing the media to get the message out there. The whole city-wide effort was boosted by local media, especially news anchor Michelle Stark. Ms. Stark was expecting her first baby and knew she wanted to help as soon as she heard about our efforts. Michelle dug into the project with passion, by helping other local moms tell their stories.
A year later, Michelle and her news team officially adopted The Great Diaper Drive as an annual service project. Their participation expanded the reach of the drive from one county in Alabama to eleven in the span of a year.
Thanks to the local television station WHNT, The Great Diaper Drive grew! It soon included major retailers serving as diaper drop-off locations, and a giant Diaper Blitz Day, a day-long, live television event. Car dealerships, attorney’s offices, dental practices, and even Boeing and Marshal Space Flight Center showed up alongside Girl Scout troops and neighborhood mom groups to donate diapers. It truly was a “Village” event.
Step 3: Getting More Supplies
Even with that massive amount of local support, we still weren’t scratching the surface of need in our area. Supplies collected were completely depleted in a few months’ time. The cost of keeping a baby in clean diapers is as much as $960 a year. A lot of struggling families are one big medical bill or natural disaster away from diaper insecurity.
Next the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) and Huggies joined our local “Village.” The NDBN and Huggies knew Huntsville needed to create an even bigger “Village” than we could do on our own. As the founding sponsor of the National Diaper Bank Network since 2011, Huggies No Baby Unhugged has provided ongoing support for the organization and has donated more than 200 million diapers and baby wipes, including critical donations during times of crisis.
Huggies gave us the encouragement to take things to the next level. They knew we had to have a longer-term plan to combat diaper need. Huggies suggested we find a partner to become a member of the National Diaper Bank Network. This Network supports the country’s more than 300 community-based diaper banks. They collect, store and distribute diapers to struggling families.
It was time to go bigger.
Step 4: Creating the Diaper Bank
At the time, there was no diaper bank affiliate in the area, despite the huge need and at-risk data. The Food Bank of North Alabama already provided food for a network of over 240 pantries, shelters, and children’s programs in 11 counties of the state. Moms and dads on the Food Bank’s board of directors were next to answer our call. We approached them about becoming a National Diaper Bank Network member diaper bank, and that dream became a reality in 2016.
Our “Village” was now national, and year-round!
It’s About More Than Diapers
This week, The National Diaper Bank Network and founding sponsor Huggies announced a new study, Diaper Need and Its Impact on U.S. Families, revealing that one-in-three U.S. families (36%) continue to struggle with diaper need.
The study also revealed that almost three-in-five parents in diaper need (57%) missed work or school in the past month because they didn’t have enough diapers when dropping their children off at childcare, day care or early education programs.
Access to clean diapers can be a powerful thing, it’s up to us to build and empower our “Villages” to provide them.
From the moment Sarah told us about this need, I knew there was no way I could sit back and not get involved. I was surprised there was nothing in place in Huntsville, AL. already! Diapers aren’t covered by federal subsidies, leaving parents with few options.
The stories I hear from these parents — bad luck, piles of bills and no health insurance, cash flow issues after a job switch — these are all stories that could have happened to me. So I helped build a “Village” to support families in diaper need in my community. You can too!
Learn more about how you can help support families in diaper need, and donate your Huggies Rewards points to help babies in need at Huggies.com/NoBabyUnhugged.
Huggies – the fastest growing diaper brand in U.S. hospitals – believes deeply in the Power of Hugs, which is why every diaper and wipe is inspired by a parent’s embrace. The Huggies No Baby Unhugged program helps ensure all babies get the hugs they need to thrive by supporting hugging programs in hospitals and donating diapers across the country. Learn how you can help at Huggies.com. #HuggiesCouncil #sponsored