Organization helps babies stay healthy by supplying clean diapers

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” — Matthew 19:14

One mother keeps her baby in a wet diaper. Another mother scrapes solid waste from her toddler’s diaper and lines the diaper with paper towel so it can be worn again. Because they’re struggling financially, both women are trying to stretch their diaper supply.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies is helping to address these unhealthy practices—and ensure healthy children—in the Greater Painted Post, N.Y., area by awarding a grant to Twin Tiers Baby Bank, a nonprofit organization that provides families with an emergency supply of diapers up to four times a year per child. Repackaged and provided for each child are 50 diapers, a pack of wipes, a 1-oz. tube of diaper ointment and a 4-oz. bottle of combination baby wash/shampoo.

“Nationally, 1 in 3 children experiences diaper need and, based on local poverty levels and free school lunch percentages, we feel our area reflects or exceeds this estimate,” says Cathy Weil, who serves as director of Twin Tiers Baby Bank on a volunteer basis. Furthermore, the poorest families spend 14 percent of after-tax income on diapers, according to the Center for Economic Policy and Research. The baby bank generally serves 70-90 children per month. In 2020, the organization served 658 families with 1,431 children.

The organization was founded following a discussion among Turning Point, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Family Services and the church’s minister. “Twin Tiers” refers to a number of counties in the area. At first, the organization was named “the Baby Bank at First Baptist Church of Painted Post.”

“This [name] led to a lot of questions about our willingness to serve those from areas outside of Painted Post, which is a small town of about 1,600 people,” Weil says. “We had people ask if folks other than those who attend the church could come in for diapers. … To better reflect our broader geographical reach and for fundraising purposes, we decided to seek 501c3 status and change the name.”

In fall 2016, they began fundraising and shopping to stock up on diapers. Supplying diapers to families began in earnest in January 2017. The Baby Bank grew so quickly that it became a separate nonprofit organization, while continuing to use an office and storage space at the church. In addition to free space, the church continues to support the organization with financial donations and volunteers’ time. Since all workers are volunteers, 100 percent of financial donations go to meet the need.

“Pre-pandemic, we encouraged groups to do diaper drives; we sought donations from local companies, organizations and churches; we held a large fundraiser called ‘Diaperpalooza’; and we applied for grants,” Weil says. “With this patchwork of sources, we have been able to have diapers in multiple brands on hand in 15 sizes—preemie [premature] to size 7, plus pull-ups in three sizes and both boy/girl types.”

In addition to the physical and emotional issues that plague a child left in wet or soiled diapers too long is the fact that children can’t attend early childhood programs or daycare if they lack an adequate supply of diapers. Ironically, this fact can cause parents to miss work, compounding their inability to buy an adequate supply of diapers.