WAUKEGAN – LAKE COUNTY JOURNAL - After a year in which the COVID-19
pandemic exponentially increased demand for its services, Keeping Families Covered is expanding both its reach and its offerings.
In late June, volunteers conducted the first mobile diaper pantry distribution in Kenosha, expanding into Wisconsin what formerly had been only an Illinois initiative in Lake County.
The Kenosha Public Library-Southwest now is the site of monthly diaper distributions, adding to the nonprofit’s mobile diaper pantry schedule of monthly distributions in Gurnee, Grayslake and Waukegan and four distributions a month in Highwood.
Adult incontinence products also are offered as of July 1, said Ann Marie Mathis, founder and executive director of Keeping Families Covered.
With demand continuing on an upward trend and new ground to cover, Mathis said she is hopeful her 11-year-old organization’s generous supporters will continue to step up and that new volunteers will come forward.
“We’ve been here, we’re still here and we’re growing,” Mathis said. “If you’re looking for a way to support an organization in the community that is providing families with the basics they need to thrive, consider supporting us by donating goods, time, money or hosting a diaper drive.”
Mathis said 2020 was a record year for Keeping Families Covered, formerly known as Twice As Nice Mother & Child. The organization helped 18,623 children and 13,307 families.
“We gave away 1.16 million diapers in 2020, as well as over 150,000 period supplies and 24,000 pieces of clothing,” Mathis said. “We had 61 mobile diaper pantry events last year.”
The number of diapers distributed in 2020 was a 63% increase over the 707,957 diapers distributed in 2019. All of that occurred despite pandemic-provoked supply chain challenges, volunteer packing-session disruptions and fundraising event cancellations.
Despite the reopening economy, Mathis foresees no slowdown in demand. A looming diaper and female hygiene product price increase likely will bring even more clients her way, she predicted.
“What we saw in 2020 is far from over,” Mathis said, noting that no federal aid or welfare programs cover diapers. “Things have started to open up, but that doesn’t mean the level of need has diminished.
“The pandemic magnified needs that have always existed in the communities we serve and exposed more gaps in service that we are working very hard to fill,” she continued. “Diaper need and period poverty continues to disproportionately impact families who are already struggling to make ends meet.”
Through its membership in the National Diaper Bank Network, Keeping Families Covered is able to buy diapers in bulk at a deep discount. The same is true for period products through its membership in the Alliance for Period Supplies and a partnership with Aunt Flo. An anticipated 8% price increase this summer will drive the agency’s costs up and directly affect families who are purchasing those items.
Keeping Families Covered typically buys about 90% of the diapers it gives away – a number that already stood at 600,000 as of late June and on pace to meet a projected 1.5 million by the end of 2021.
While 2020 saw substantial COVID-19 emergency funding come Keeping Families Covered’s way, that will not be the case this year, Mathis said. The organization’s programs are funded through grants from local foundations and community service groups, as well as support from individual donors, which Mathis said has been an incredible blessing as they continue to navigate the pandemic.
“We were planning to do our fundraising gala in the fall, but we have had to postpone that for the second year in a row. The event is now slated for September 2022,” Mathis said. “We are moving forward with some smaller-scale fundraisers between now and the end of the year.”
Information on volunteering to host a drive, packing diapers or period supply kits or contributing financially can be found on the agency’s website, www.keepingfamiliescovered.org.
Mobile diaper pantry dates and locations, as well as registration details to obtain infant or adult diapers, are on the website.