A simple conversation between two new parents has led to infants in the D.C. area being liberated of possibly going without diapers.
This gesture was baby Jack’s first birthday present in a sense. His mother, Corinne Cannon, founded DC Diaper Bank, a nonprofit that works to provide diapers to families with limited resources. Jay Williams, Jack’s father, serves as the secretary of the nonprofit.
Cannon and Williams wanted to help underprivileged families, especially after experiencing the time, effort and cash they spent on a newborn in the months after their son was born. They called several organizations to see how they could help. One item was mentioned over and over. Diapers.
“Diapers are not covered by food stamps,” Cannon says. “They’re not covered by WIC funds, so a mother, a family that’s struggling doesn’t have a resource that is an absolute necessity for the baby.”
Since 2009, DC Diaper Bank has held numerous diaper drives in the D.C. area. One of note is the Capitol Hill Diaper Drive. Merchants on The Hill provide discounts or free merchandise to costumers who donate to the drive. According to Cannon, families can spend up to $120 a month on diapers, though this amount varies depending upon brand, size and place of purchase.
The donated diapers go through one of the 15 distribution sites before they make it to the family in need. However, this doesn’t leave Cannon with an opportunity to interact with beneficiaries as much as she would like.
“I think it’s emotionally satisfying to give the diapers directly to families but I think it’s more effective to go through this network,” Cannon says. The organizations see the diapers as a gateway resource. A family that was hard to reach or isn’t coming in for food or medical services might walk through the doors for diapers.
“I was at an event on the Hill and the women organizing the Capitol Hill Diaper Drive were there,” recalls Cannon, who is 36. “And a woman came up to me, and she had triplets. She said ‘I just wanted to thank you. We got pregnant, and we thought we were having one baby and it turned out we were having three, and I have no idea how we would have done this without your help.'”
Cannon is invested in the emotional health of those she helps. She gave up her previous career in health communications to focus on helping families full time. According to her, volunteering her and her husband’s time has been worth it.
“A diaper is more than just a diaper. A diaper is a gateway to help that family in the long term,” Cannon says. Many people have trouble admitting that they need help when it comes to food or medicine, but they are eager to come in for free diapers, Cannon says. Their initial visit for diapers leads them to getting more help from the distributors.
Going into its third year in October 2013, DC Diaper Bank has grown by “leaps and bounds” according to the founder. The organization has recently moved to a warehouse in Silver Spring to hold the thousands of diapers they receive regularly.
“We went from distributing roughly 5,000 a month in the beginning to now distributing between 40-50,000 diapers throughout the metro area.”
This year, she says, DC Diaper Bank is on track to distribute over a half million diapers to 1,500 families per month. Their next steps are to raise awareness about parenting in poverty and expanding to help more organizations and distributing other items such as baby wipes, toothpaste and other needs.
To learn more about DC Diaper Bank and how you can help, visit dcdiaperbank.org.