Daily North Shore—You’ve heard about the popularity of food trucks. How about a van filled with diapers?
Given that one in three families in the United States is in need of diapers, a non-profit organization called Twice As Nice Mother & Child is launching a mobile diaper pantry on Wednesday, April 18 to bring diapers to the Lake County community.
Twice As Nice Mother & Child, based in Gurnee, provides diapers to more than 2,000 children across 31 ZIP codes in Lake County.
“One shocking statistic that most people don’t realize is that safety net programs like WIC and food stamps can’t be used to buy diapers, so if you have a family that’s struggling to make ends meet, it’s more difficult to provide this basic need for their kids,” said Ann Marie Mathis, founder/executive director.
Mathis, the mom of seven kids under age nine, started Twice As Nice Mother & Child in 2010 because she felt blessed to have the means to provide whatever her kids needed, and she knew many people weren’t as fortunate.
Mathis said parenting is challenging enough without having to worry about providing basic needs for children. She also had concerns about donating her children’s gently used items to other charitable organizations.
“I think when we make donations sometimes, we take for granted that they go where they tell you they’re going to go,” said Mathis. “I just wanted to make sure that these items got into the hands of the people that really needed them.”
This motivated Mathis to research how to start a non-profit, and she began collecting items from her basement, as donations poured in from family, friends and neighbors. Soon she outgrew her basement and moved her inventory into a storage facility.
During this process she realized that there were things beyond clothing, shoes and baby gear that families needed; hence, Twice As Nice Mother & Child evolved into distributing diapers, wipes and formula.
Mathis said it wasn’t until Twice As Nice Mother & Child joined the National Diaper Bank Network in 2014 that she realized what a significant problem diaper need really is in the United States.
“An infant averages 10 to 12 diapers a day and a toddler is around seven to eight, so you can easily go through about 100 diapers a week if you have an infant,” said Mathis. “The average cost of diapers for a family is between $80 and $100 per month per child.”
There are no state or federal assistance programs for diaper need. Though Illinois is working on reducing the amount of sales tax on diapers, Mathis said that’s not going to alleviate the problem.
Huggies is a founding sponsor of the National Diaper Bank Network, so it provides most of the diapers and pull-ups for Twice As Nice Mother & Child, while other brands are accepted strictly by donations. Twice As Nice Mother & Child purchases about 90 percent of the diapers that it distributes, and 10 percent are donated through either individuals or drives that they host.
Unfortunately, complications can ensue from families who misuse their diapers.
“Sometimes families with limited resources try to make their diapers stretch as long as possible, which means they don’t change them as often or try to reuse the diapers,” said Mathis. “Then it just leads to health problems and unexpected medical expenses, which further entrenches them in that cycle of poverty.”
She added that another misconception is that larger sized diapers or pull-ups will last longer, but more often than not they leak. Diapers and pull-ups need to be properly sized.
Twice As Nice Mother & Child is a 100 percent volunteer-run organization, and Mathis works with 10 0ther volunteers. Her four older children — ages nine, eight, six and almost five — also help out on packing, sorting and bagging days. In addition, she takes them to some events.
“In today’s society, it’s nice for kids to see that sometimes people struggle, and to show them that it’s important to give back to the less fortunate,” said Mathis. “Getting involved in your community in some way should be a part of their growing up process, because it’s important to take care of people when you have a chance to.”
In 2017, the organization distributed 200,000 diapers to Lake County families, which Mathis said was about 100,000 more than the previous year.
“This year we’re on target to probably hit the 300,000 mark (with the mobile diaper pantry program). I’ve been working on this idea since last year and through the support of Lake County Community Foundation with a grant, as well as the two distribution sites that we’re partnering with, it’s become a reality.”
Mathis said Twice As Nice Mother & Child’s goal is to make distributions via the mobile pantry twice a month. She explained that the organization’s hope is to connect Lake County residents that don’t have transportation or are busy working or going to school, with their programs through the mobile pantries.
The two mobile diaper pantries will begin distribution on Wednesday, April 18 at Warren-Newport Public Library in Gurnee from 9 to 11 a.m. and Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep in Waukegan from 12 to 2 p.m. Distributions will be outdoors at both sites utilizing the organization’s van. Registration and identification is required for parents and children. Acceptable forms of identification for parents include a driver’s license, state ID or military ID. Birth certificates and medical cards are acceptable for children.
Parents will also need to present their ID at any future diaper distribution days. Families will receive one supply of diapers and wipes for each child wearing diapers which are available on a first come, first served basis. Future distribution dates will be posted on the organization’s Facebook page and website.
For more information call 224-637-1644 or visit: www.twiceasnicemc.org.