Today’s post comes from the DC Diaper Bank, whose mission is to strengthen families by providing a reliable and adequate supply of free diapers to families in need living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Begun in 2010, DC Diaper Bank works with a network of 17 social service agencies to provide diapers to more than 1,700 babies and families a month.
The 500,000th Diaper Question: Aren’t You Depressed All the Time?
by Corinne Cannon
I was standing in line at the CVS with just the essentials – baby wipes, sunscreen, two “gourmet” lollipops for my three year old, and (don’t judge me) a People Magazine. As the clerk rung me up she spotted the DC Diaper Bank button on my bag and asked about it. I told her what we do and how we had just moved into a warehouse, and the Diaper Drive Mascot (my son) proudly added that we “help babies who need diapers.” She asked a few questions about the work, said she’d be interested in volunteering and then said, “I don’t know how you do it every day; that must be depressing to talk to people who can’t even afford diapers.”
It’s a comment I hear frequently in varying forms: someone likes the work we do but thinks that it would be an awful thing to do every day because the need would be overwhelming. And, to be honest, every now and again it is.
I talked to a grandmother yesterday who was calling to get diapers for her 11-day-old granddaughter: the baby’s mom was still in the hospital with serious complications. That same day we got a call from a young mom who was expecting and had just been laid off. Today I received four messages from parents in need of diapers. These calls can be hard – hard because the people on the other line have nowhere else to turn, but they are also so grateful that we can help.
But for every call we get asking for help, we get another five offering help. That’s what makes this work the exact opposite of depressing. The last three years I’ve been privy to generosity that makes my heart feel like bursting when I think about it:
- Thousands – literally thousands – of diapers left on my doorstep;
- Hundreds and hundreds of diaper drives from birthday parties to school and office drives, cocktail collections, and street markets;
- Strangers handing me donations after talking to me for two minutes about this work;
- Families coming to our warehouse with their babies strapped in carriers, cups of coffee in hand, asking what can we do?
- Folks opening up their homes to serve as diaper drop spots around the region.
It’s a generosity that pours out and infects everyone around it. This work is about reaching that family who is in need as well as that family who has an overwhelming need to give back, and then connecting the two. It’s an honor to be able to do that.
And it’s a generosity that changes many lives. This October is our third birthday and we’re celebrating by distributing our 500,000th diaper and expanding our distribution network by four partners! We now reach more than 1,500 families each month through our growing network of social service agencies all over the DC metro area. We are exploring offering other items, such as adult diapers, baby food and gear, and more hygiene items. As we moving forward we look back every now and again, like parents watching a child grow, and marvel at all that DC Diaper Bank has become in three short years.
Several weeks ago I overheard the Diaper Drive Mascot, my three-year-old son, playing dinosaurs in the living room. He was having his dinosaurs pick up diapers and drop them off for baby dinosaurs who needed them. For all the days that this work is hard and depressing, there are ten times as many days where it is uplifting.
About the Author: Corinne Cannon is the founder and executive director of DC Diaper Bank. She began DC Diaper Bank in 2010, after having her first child, with the goal of alleviating maternal stress and ensuring that all our children and families have what they need to thrive. Ms. Cannon holds a Masters in Teaching from Trinity College and Masters in Cognitive Anthropology from London School of Economics. She lives on Capitol Hill with her husband and two kids.