New Lawrence mom Julie Fugett was searching online to save money on disposable diapers when she came across a charity effort called “Every Little Bottom” that intrigued her.
She did a little digging about the charity and came across a 2010 study on the use of diapers among low-income families. The report found that families would reuse diapers or leave their children in diapers longer when they couldn’t afford to buy enough. That leads to diaper rash and fussier babies and even cases of child abuse.
“I was kind of horrified. I haven’t even thought about that,” she said.
Fugett, who has an 11-week-old daughter, knows firsthand the cost of diapers and how many a baby goes through.
“Holy smokes. A lot and a lot,” she said.
A baby usually needs 10 to 12 diapers a day which typically costs between $100 and $120 per month, and there aren’t many programs that provide such a necessity to low-income families.
While on maternity leave, Fugett called her Kansas University colleague, Thelma Simons, who serves on the board at Douglas County’s food program Just Food, to see if they could organize a diaper drive at their workplace. They ended up taking it a step further and organized a community-wide, monthlong diaper drive.
So far, they’ve collected 10,000 diapers.
“I was just floored,” Fugett said, when she heard that they reached their initial goal. Now, they are aiming to double that number by month’s end.
Just Food staff and volunteers will collect the donations and distribute them to partner agencies like Ballard Community Services and First Christian Church.
“This goes to show the power that each individual has to make a difference in the lives of thousands of people in their community,” said Jeremy Farmer, executive director of Just Food.
The food program served a monthly record 7,047 people in June; 12 percent of them were children 5 and under.
“There’s obviously a huge need,” Farmer said. “People are faced with tough choices.”
MariaAna Garza is a registered nurse and case manager with Healthy Families Douglas County, which works to prevent child abuse and neglect.
“I see a lot of need for diapers because they are very expensive,” she said. “It’s especially hard for low-income families or those with unstable income. They may even have more than one child in the diaper phase.”
She said low-income families typically don’t have the means — Internet access, gas money or a vehicle — to shop around. Garza said there also are limited resources for providing diapers. She said the Just Food partner agencies will provide them when they have them, so she was happy to hear they may soon be stocked.
“I think families are struggling a lot. I think they are struggling to meet their basic needs, and if they have an infant in the family, diapers are a basic need,” she said.
Simons, one of the Lawrence organizers, described herself as a tree hugger and at first, didn’t like the idea of collecting disposable diapers but then she did her research and found there are many reasons that low-income families can’t use cloth diapers. Among them: they often don’t have access to a washer and dryer, most laundromats prohibit the washing of cloth diapers for sanitary reasons, and many child care providers won’t deal with cloth diapers.
“It was just kind of an ah-ha moment for me,” she said.
COMMUNITY DIAPER DRIVE
Douglas County’s Just Food food program is sponsoring a monthlong diaper drive in July to help low-income families. The nonprofit agency is accepting monetary donations on its website justfoodfund.org, and donors are asked to enter "diapers" in the comment section. A donation of $25 will buy 200 diapers.
Purchased diapers also are being accepted at Just Food, 1000 E. 11th St., and a dozen Lawrence agencies and businesses including: Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Checkers Foods, The Merc, Dillons, Hy-Vee, Walgreens and Wal-Mart.