Helping a Client Raise Awareness

 In Blog

In past years, I have written the stories that appear in United Way of Hampshire County’s annual campaign report. This year, the agency is telling its tales in blog form to raise awareness. United Way of Hampshire County funds 34 programs that deliver 21,687 acts of service per year. Over 250 volunteers give over 5,000 hours of their time. I am proud to be able to help spread the word about this trusted, important organization. What follows is a recent blog I penned.

There is a deep need to get diapers into the hands of parents and onto the bottoms of newborns and toddlers. 

People cannot use food stamps or support from WIC to purchase diapers, and let’s face it, they are not a luxury item, even though they come with a steep price. Diapers can cost up to 50 cents apiece—or $4 or $5 per day—and that is more than some families can manage without making difficult choices, such as whether to buy diapers or their child’s next meal. 

More than an economic issue, the lack of affordable diapers is a health matter for infants, as they are exposed to more health risks without frequent, clean changes. The problem also poses mental health dangers: Stressed out parents raise stressed out children. 

Barbara Black, formerly the early childhood coordinator for Northampton Public Schools, is passionate about meeting the need for affordable diapers, and she came to United Way of Hampshire County five years ago to encourage us to start a diaper drive. In that first year, we gathered roughly 33,000 diapers to give away to parents. We later teamed with Amherst Survival Center to fundraise and provide diapers through annual drives.

The demand continued to exceed our supplies, though, as it did in Franklin County, where the United Way had established a diaper bank and was donating 6,000 to 10,000 diapers per month to parents, continuously fundraising to replenish.

Now, all involved individuals and organizations have banded together. Bolstered by a grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, we are collaborating with the United Way of Franklin County on a single United Way Diaper Bank that is a member of the National Diaper Bank Network. We provide 14 partner agencies with diapers to disperse to parents.

In July, the new bank distributed 9,100 diapers to families in need. We are thrilled with the program’s success and relieved to be able to meet the need. As we explore a merger with United Way of Franklin County, we are excited to have a model program that so well showcases the success and growth we can achieve together. 

We have worked in unison with United Way of Franklin County for decades. A merger will better serve the region through shared programs like the diaper bank, increased capacities like with fundraising, and allow new efficiencies, such as grant processing, which we’ve already begun to meld. 

The diaper bank was the first and most defined collaboration to date, and it was made possible in March through a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. As the pandemic cost people their jobs, buying diapers became more out of reach for some and out of reach for the first time for others. Need increased quite a bit.

We are excited that the grant funding helped us purchase just over 190,000 diapers, which we received at a discounted price of 18 cents per because of our new membership in the National Diaper Bank. 

Parents who need affordable diapers don’t need to worry about where they will get them. Through the new diaper bank, diapers are available at Community Action’s Family CenterFranklin County Community Meals Program’s Orange Food PantryThe Center for Self-Reliance Food Pantry, Montague Catholic Social Ministries, Leyden Woods, It Takes a Village,  The Children’s Closet in North Leverett, Greenfield Community College’s Food Pantry, The Good Neighbors Food Pantry in Charlemont and The West County Food Pantry in Shelburne Falls, Amherst Survival CenterEasthampton Community Center, and Jubilee Diaper Ministry.

At least for now, our regional United Ways don’t need to worry about where the funding will come from to provide. The grant, the partnership, and the diaper bank membership offer us all a huge, collective sigh of relief. 

State Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, who led the Amherst Survival Center for many years and was a critical part of the diaper drive efforts in Hampshire County, is now working to meet diaper need on a larger scale.

With Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, she has filed a bill that, if passed, would create a new fund offering grants to nonprofits that distribute free diapers. The trio hopes that an initial, one-year pilot program could provide funds for up to 12 organizations in the state. 

While this kind of effort will also provide relief, we know the need will continue, and we will need to assess it, and fundraise, continually. And you can help.

Funds can be earmarked for the diaper bank, and we also accept in-kind donations throughout the year. Please contact our office before dropping off as our hours have changed due to COVID-19. 

Click here to make a gift or learn more. 

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