Diapers may not be the first item that comes to mind when people think of helping families in need, but Jennifer Lohse, president of the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona's board of directors, says struggling mothers often have to trim food budgets in order to buy diapers for the youngest members of their families. Cloth diapers may seem like the best alternative, but for mothers going to school or working a couple of jobs to pay rent, their children may be in day care—and almost all day cares require disposable diapers. For more information on the Diaper Bank and how to donate diapers, visit diaperbank.org.
What's unique about this diaper bank?
We're the nation's first diaper bank, and there are now 55 diaper banks across the country using our model: We give the diapers we collect directly to social-service agencies, senior centers and crisis nurseries. They distribute the diapers to those who need them most.
This year, you are participating in a campaign with Huggies. What's that about?
It's the Every Little Bottom campaign. We were part of a group of diaper banks that commissioned a study that shows that American moms struggle with diaper needs, and even (sometimes need to) cut back on food and utilities. Huggies heard about our study and invited us and nine other banks to be part of a giveaway of 20 million diapers this year. They've already given 2 million diapers away.
How many of those have you received?
We've received 275,000, and we have another 100,000 diapers coming next month as part of the campaign.
Typically, how do you collect the diapers you give away?
We ask agencies, corporations, local businesses, churches, schools and any other group you can think of to host diaper drives throughout the year. Our goal is 1.5 million, and last year, we raised 39 percent of that goal, about 600,000 diapers.
As the first diaper bank in the country, what's unique about your model?
That we give to partner agencies. It's similar to a food- bank model. If we take care of this one need that these agencies struggle to provide, it's one less thing for them to worry about, and they can focus on their missions.
You also collect adult diapers for senior centers and others who need them.
Twenty-five percent of the diapers that we receive requests for are distributed to adult-service agencies. The Pima Council on Aging, Catholic Community Services and several senior centers in town receive adult-incontinence supplies from us.
Do you see a greater need this year than in previous years?
Yes, the Diaper Bank has seen an increase in requests coming in from our partner agencies. That is evidenced best by our partnership with the Pima County Health Department. Due to limited resources, the Diaper Bank is only able to supply the Health Department with enough diapers to meet one in five of the incoming requests. Even then, they only provide an emergency supply of approximately eight diapers per child per month.
What about the use of cloth diapers?
This is the first time we are going to provide them if requested. We've had two agencies ask ... but day cares require disposable. Cloth will also work only for families with access to laundry facilities and don't have to meet day-care requirements.
Are there misconcep-tions regarding the Diaper Bank?
I think people are overwhelmed when they find that WIC and food stamps don't cover diapers. And also, when people say, "Why can't they have cloth diapers?" You can't put a kid in cloth diapers if a mother is working on her GED or goes back to work, because a day-care center won't accept cloth diapers. Those are the two things we hear most.
Anything new coming up?
We have the December radio drive with KMXZ FM 94.9, MIXfm, on Dec. 4, for a month-long diaper drive in the morning with Bobby Rich, to bring in about half of the donated diapers we need. Right now, we have a huge demand for newborn size, and other smaller sizes. This is the first time that has happened to us in 16 years.
Why do you volunteer with the Diaper Bank?
I'm a mom of an 18-month-old. ... I'm grateful that I can walk into the store and pick up a package of diapers, and I don't worry about the cost. I know other mothers can't do that, so this is an organization I've become very passionate about.