$20,000 Awarded for Diaper Program

The Tri-Cities Diaper Bank (TCDB) recently received a $20,000 grant from the North American Division Adventist Community Services (ACS) to support its work. The TCDB, a ministry of ACS, includes volunteers from the Pasco, Richland and Kennewick churches in southeast Washington. The funds received from this grant will be used to buy diapers for needy children in the Tri-Cities (Wash.) area.

"This grant provides a tremendous opportunity," says Adra Johnson, TCDB executive director, "because in the Tri-Cities there are many families who routinely choose between buying diapers or paying for other necessities."

As the first of its kind in the region and the first Adventist diaper bank in the United States, this nonprofit organization distributes diapers to needy families in partnership with area churches and social-service agencies.

It doesn't seem like a lack of diapers would be such a problem in America. "Unfortunately, public awareness has lagged behind the reality of the tremendous need that exists for diapers," Johnson says.

Most needy families in the U.S. can get basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter through government assistance, but diapers don't qualify to be purchased through assistance programs. Because of this, it is not unusual for children to be left in the same wet diaper all day, which not only leads to higher rates of rash and infection, but can lead to higher incidences of child abuse, since these children tend to cry more often.

To compound the problem even further, laundromats and daycare centers discourage the use of reusable cloth diapers. Laundromats often do not allow cloth diapers to be washed in their machines for sanitary reasons. Licensed daycare centers often require parents to provide an adequate supply of disposable diapers for their children. The cost can easily reach $1,200 per child per year — a daunting price tag for families living below the poverty level.

"Without a sufficient supply of disposable diapers and access to licensed daycare, parents living in poverty are trapped," says Johnson. "They don't have time or money to take advantage of educational or job opportunities that would help lift their families out of poverty."

The idea for creating a diaper bank ministry began in November 2010, when Cindy Williams, a volunteer at the Pasco Riverview Church's community service center, realized the clothes she gave away each week were only meeting part of a need.

"A young mother came in one day and asked for some clothes for her baby," Williams says. "When she asked if we had any diapers, all I could say was 'no.' I felt terrible that I couldn't help her."

Williams talked to a few people about the need, and soon Tri-Cities Junior Academy was holding a diaper drive. With 118 energetic students the goal was to bring in about 3,000 diapers in one week. By the end of the drive, more than 12,000 diapers were stacked in the hallway of the school.

Since that time the TCDB has grown to include more than 10 local agencies and churches, which have distributed more than 80,000 diapers to families who live in poverty. The dedication of numerous volunteers enables this ministry's continued growth.

"We are indebted to our local member churches for providing storage, workspace, office supplies and equipment, and so many other necessary items that go into making our operations successful," says Johnson. "All of these added benefits allow us to make sure that any funds we receive go to where they can do the most good — straight into buying diapers."

"The $20,000 is from the Hope for Humanity funds allocated to support Adventist Community Services projects," says Patty Marsh, Upper Columbia Conference ACS director. "The grant is offered yearly and presents a wonderful opportunity for all ACS organizations to bring forward worthy proposals for review by the North American Division ACS."

While the grant does give the TCDB a tremendous boost in their program, the need for diapers will continue. The TCDB board is planning to expand the number of churches, community groups and agencies involved in this ministry, and so fulfill the words of Jesus: "For I was naked and you clothed me" (Matthew 25:36).