In 2009, while Rachel Miller was spending a year in Italy, she heard that friends involved in Help a Mother Out (www.helpamotherout.org) wanted to find a way to help homeless families—especially mothers and children. Miller then decided to launch an online diaper drive benefiting the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona (diaperbank.org). Miller is still helping the Diaper Bank, and she's organized Swap-o-Rama, being held from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 12, in the Geneva Hall at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, 3809 E. Third St. Admission is a package of diapers—adult or baby—for the Diaper Bank. Visit swaporama.eventbrite.com for more information.
How did your interest in the Diaper Bank start?
I'm part of a group called Help a Mother Out. Some friends in the (San Francisco) Bay area wanted to respond to the increase of homeless families in the area and help at a local homeless shelter. At a benefit, they were told they could help with something small, like diapers. We were actually abroad at the time, but I thought, "Why don't we do something in Tucson?"
If you were out of the country, how did you do that?
I went on the blog Tucson Mama (www.tucsonmama.com), and I did a diaper drive in 2009—an online diaper drive. For me, it was pretty personal. (The Diaper Bank doesn't) just provide diapers for small children, but also adults who are elderly and disabled; 29 percent of the requests are for adult-incontinence supplies. Having a small child myself, and knowing the importance of access to diapers for health reasons, I thought, "This is something I can do. I'm 6,000 miles away from my home in Tucson, but I can tweet about it. I can have a friend blog about it, even if I just raise enough diapers for one child for a month."
How many did you end up collecting?
In the end, through Facebook and the blog, it came to 2,000 to 3,000 diapers, and that included adult diapers, which are very expensive. I was overwhelmed by the positive response, but still, it wasn't meeting the need. The Diaper Bank had a million and a half requests for diapers last year, but it was only able to provide 600,000. But even if it is a small action, it is helping someone.
Why a Swap-o-Rama?
In November 2009, Julie Reed from Tucson Mama (and an occasional Tucson Weekly contributor) did a small clothing exchange, and Dinnerware very graciously offered their space, and we asked people for ... a bag of diapers or wipes to come in and take part in the exchange. Now, a year and half later, we're doing it again, but on a bigger scale.
How do people participate?
Bring five items of gently used children's clothing and a packet of unopened diapers for a donation.
When did you move to Tucson, and how many children do you have?
I've been in Tucson since 1989, and I just have one child, a 4-year-old. I ... went to college here and ended up staying in Tucson.
Are there misconceptions you encounter each time you do a diaper drive?
Two things people say: "Why don't they use cloth diapers?" First of all, it's not really feasible if you're homeless or living out in your car, or bunking down with family or friends, or leaving a domestic-violence situation. Some Laundromats won't allow them. And the initial cost is not insignificant. The other thing is, "Well, you shouldn't have children if you can't afford diapers." Well, to that, I always say that life is not a nice, linear path, and it throws you lots of curveballs. Plus, those comments sort of ignore the fact that more than 29 percent of the requests are for adult diapers.
Why do you think these diaper drives work?
We have busy lives, and ... we can do these without taking away from the other things we have to do, and doing this is really positive for us. It's not difficult to think about the fact that we could be in the same position, and ask ourselves, "What if we couldn't afford diapers?"
What kind of clothing could you use more of at the exchange?
Really, we want any age range. We're looking particularly for sizes 0 through 8 years old. Right now, most of what people have put into the exchange is on the younger end of that, and I am really hoping for the slightly larger sizes.